People from diverse cultures make American companies more productive and profitable. They bring differences we must embrace in order for those benefits to be realized. The United States Department of Labor statistics say that 41 percent of the U.S. workforce consists of people of color. A large number of this workforce is over the age of 50.

According to a recent national study by the Urban Institute’s Program on Retirement Policy, African-Americans and Hispanics ages 50 and older face workplace challenges such as low earnings, high unemployment and access to self-employment.

“Our data show that older African-American workers have been hit hard by the recession, especially men. African-American workers ages 50 to 61 were 84 percent more likely to be unemployed than their non-Hispanic white counterparts, and those ages 62 and older were 71 percent more likely to be unemployed. Those who remained at work also fared worse than non-Hispanic whites,” stated Richard Johnson, senior fellow and director of the Program on Retirement Policy.

The organization also states that the median income for men ages 50 to 61 employed full-time in 2009 totaled $56,100 for non-Hispanic whites. This is compared to $40,800 for African-Americans, $35,700 for Hispanics and $50,000 for Asians. Median inflation-adjusted earnings fell between 1999 and 2009 for men 50-61 in all groups.

“Among men ages 50 to 61 employed full-time in 2009, for example, African-Americans earned less than 75 percent as much as non-Hispanic whites. The Black-white gap was similar for men ages 62 and older. The earnings gap narrowed between 1979 and 1999, but declines in the earnings of African-American men during the 2000s erased those gains,” Johnson continued.

The study underscores challenges that African-Americans over 50 face in the labor market. Variables and factors like less education and racial discrimination still affect African-American males more than non-Hispanic whites.

For women ages 50-61, Hispanics exhibited the highest 2010 unemployment rate (10.7 percent), followed by African-Americans (8.7 percent), Asians (6.6 percent) and non-Hispanic whites (5.6 percent).