report cover featuring photo of a Black female worker2022

By Abbie Langston, Matthew Walsh, and Edward Muña


Nashville’s strong and sustained growth has helped make it Tennessee’s largest city and the state’s biggest economic powerhouse, but racial inequities in the workforce threaten the region’s future prosperity. This report, produced in partnership with the Urban League of Middle Tennessee and Lightcast, with support from JPMorgan Chase & Co., offers a comprehensive look at the racial inequities in workforce outcomes that have long persisted in the Nashville metropolitan region. It also underscores how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting these dynamics and how automation is projected to affect industries and workers in the area. Our in-depth analysis of disaggregated equity indicators and labor market dynamics found that only about 41 percent of the region’s 915,000 workers hold good jobs, that white workers with only a high school diploma earn higher median wages ($17/hour) than Black workers with an associate’s degree ($16/hour), and that eliminating racial inequities in employment and wages could boost the Nashville economy by $9.5 billion a year. The report concludes with actionable solutions to advance workforce equity across the region, informed by these findings and shaped by local leaders.

Read our other publications by research area

    Immigrant Integration & Racial Justice

    Our work on immigrant integration and racial justice brings together three emphases: scholarship that draws on academic theory and rigorous research, data that provides information structured to highlight the process of immigrant integration over time, and engagement that seeks to create new dialogues with government, community organizers, business and civic leaders, immigrants and the voting public to advance immigrant integration and racial equity.

    Economic Inclusion & Climate Equity

    In the area of economic inclusion, we at ERI advance academic theory and practical applications linking economic growth, environmental quality, and civic health with bridging of racial and other gaps; produce accessible and actionable data and analysis through the data tools; and establish research partnerships to deepen and advance the dialogue, planning, and actions around racial equity, environmental justice, and the built environment.

    Social Movements & Governing Power

    ERI’s work in the area of governing power includes: conducting cross-disciplinary studies of today’s social movements, supporting learning and strategizing efforts to advance dialogues among organizers, funders, intermediaries, evaluators, and academics, and developing research-based social change frameworks and tools to inform—and be informed by—real-world, real-time efforts towards a vision of deep change.

    Publications Directory

    In 2020, the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and the USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII) merged to form the USC Equity Research Institute (ERI).

    The full list of publications published under our previous and current names can be found in our publications directory.

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