In 2022, President Joe Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides new incentives to scale up U.S. production of electric vehicles and the batteries needed to operate them. The policy has three primary objectives: 1) support the American auto industry and outcompete China by growing domestic supply chains for the vehicles consumers are increasingly purchasing at home and across the globe; 2) reduce greenhouse gas emissions produced by internal combustion engine vehicles; and 3) create tens of thousands of new, good-paying union auto jobs—for all Americans. In recent years, both American and foreign automakers have responded by announcing at least 111 projects in two dozen states to scale up their U.S.-based manufacturing operations.
These announcements are a clear sign that the law is working as designed. But a new analysis from the Center for American Progress Action Fund found another encouraging benefit: The investments offer new opportunities for Black Americans. According to the Center for American Progress’ “Biden Administration Investment Tracker,” roughly $129 billion has been invested in EV and battery production in recent years. Using demographic data available through the U.S. Census Bureau, this analysis finds that nearly $65 billion, or more than 50 percent, of EV and battery investment funds announced in recent years will be located in areas where at least one congressional district—or city where congressional district data may not yet be available—has a Black population that is at or exceeds the national average.
Nearly $65 billion of EV and battery investment funds announced in recent years will be located in areas where at least one congressional district has a Black population that is at or exceeds the national average.
The analysis indicates Black Americans could uniquely benefit from the new, good-paying jobs and broader economic activity in their communities. The surge of economic development in Black communities, backed by the Biden administration’s clean energy plan, is further proof of the administration’s commitment to making the economy more equitable and just for all Americans.
Previous administrations haven’t prioritized racial equity as a strategy for growing the economy and advancing justice the way President Biden has, making it the forefront of his administration, including through multiple executive orders, such as the Executive Order on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce. Through these executive orders and the administration’s investments, communities historically left behind by federal policymaking—not just Black neighborhoods—are seeing a surge in new opportunities, which could help further narrow the racial wealth gap. For example, the surge in semiconductor manufacturing supported by the CHIPS and Science Act could disproportionately benefit Latino communities. It is through this law and other components of the administration’s industrial policy that the historic investments dedicated to developing key technologies and infrastructure will ensure the advancement and broadening of participation in STEM education, apprenticeship programming, and employment opportunities among underrepresented groups across the nation.
To ensure that these investments lift up Black communities more broadly, it is critical that the new jobs pay well and offer workers meaningful protections. Last year, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union went on strike against the Big Three U.S. automakers: Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis. Backed by historic support from the Biden administration, UAW members secured and ratified contracts with the Big Three that yielded crucial wage gains and job protections for workers at the companies’ current and future EV and battery plants. The ratified contracts secured through the recent UAW strikes will also enhance the economic future of Black autoworkers, who account for more than 16 percent of autoworkers—greater than Black workers’ share of the broader workforce. Following workers’ successful strike against the Big Three, the UAW announced the launch of an organizing drive to unionize workers at more than a dozen other automakers in the United States, many of which are building EVs and batteries with the help of the Inflation Reduction Act’s tax incentives.
While some have suggested that transitioning to EVs would necessitate lower pay and standards for auto workers, the UAW’s gains to the contrary show how the Biden administration’s clean energy plan is actually increasing the leverage of U.S. autoworkers and helping them retain or regain a foothold in America’s middle class. These new investments and labor protections demonstrate significant progress for American workers and the auto industry relative to 2017 through 2020, which saw multiple U.S.-based auto plants close.
What’s more, in U.S. history, 2023 marked the lowest annual unemployment rate for Black Americans. The strong labor market in Black communities makes it all the more crucial for automakers to invest in skills training, outreach, and their workforces in order to find and retain the requisite talent to fill the tens of thousands of new jobs created by these investments. If they do so, and efforts by the far-right to water down or repeal the Inflation Reduction Act are defeated, there is ample reason for optimism that ballooning investments in EV and battery production in Black communities will help sustain the strong labor market for Black Americans in the months and years ahead.