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Wage gap between blacks and whites is larger today than it was 40 years ago

September 18th, 2017 | ThinkProgress Staff

It’s near impossible for black Americans to achieve parity with their white counterparts in the labor market, according to two new studies which show that they are underpaid and discriminated against throughout the hiring process.

Earlier in September, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco reported that the wage gap between black and white Americans is increasing, based on findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 1979, the average black American man made 80 cents on the dollar to what a white American man made; in 2016, he made just 70 cents on the dollar. There was a similar widening in wage gap for black and white women, who made 95 cents for every dollar an average white woman made in 1979, but only 82 cents in 2016.

“The findings point to persistent shortfalls in labor market outcomes for black men and women… that cannot be fully explained by differences in age, education, job type of location,” the report read. “Especially troubling is the growing unexplained portion of the divergence in earnings from blacks relative to whites.”

Economists are worried about the growing “unexplained portion of divergence,” which has grown from 8 percentage points in 1979 to 21 percentage points in 2016. The researchers note that factors such as “discrimination, differences in school quality, or differences in career opportunities – are likely to be playing a role in the persistence and widening of these gaps.”

But these wage disparities don’t even account for another major problem facing black Americans: getting a job in the first place. In another recent studyresearchers from Harvard, Northwestern University and the Institute for Social Research in Norway have found there has been no change in the level of hiring discrimination in more than 25 years.

The study sent out resumes with similar levels of education and experience, the only difference being the name – some resumes had stereotypically black and Latinx names while others had stereotypically white names. As a second part of the study, applicants with similar qualifications (but of different races) went in to apply for a job in person.

Researchers concluded that, on average, a white job applicant was 36 percent more likely to receive a callback for an opening than an equally qualified African-American candidate. White job seekers also received 24 percent more callbacks than equally qualified Latinx candidates. “These findings lead us to temper our optimism regarding racial progress in the United States,” the study read. “At one time it was assumed that the gradual fade-out of prejudiced beliefs, through cohort replacement and cultural change, would drive a steady reduction in discrimination treatment. At least in the case of hiring discrimination against African-Americans, this expectation does not appear to have been born out.”

These two studies come only a week after new Census Bureau data showed the grim inequality that persists in American society. While there was an overall increase in median wealth for Americans, African-American and Latinx families still lagged far behind. An average white families now earns around $65,041, compared with $47,675 for a Hispanic family and $39,490 for an African-American family.

This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on September 18, 2017. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Luke Barnes is a reporter at ThinkProgress. He previously worked at MailOnline in the U.K., where he was sent to cover Belfast, Northern Ireland and Glasgow, Scotland. He graduated in 2015 from Columbia University with a degree in Political Science. He has also interned at Talking Points Memo, the Santa Cruz Sentinel and Narratively.

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