Most of the country has been dealing with high inflation rates in recent weeks, tearing through cost of living raises from last year and halting hiring opportunities for many companies. Economists continue to speculate that the United States is poised on the edge of another recession, and these fears have been reflected internationally as the euro and other foreign currencies have lost value as well. If another recession is inevitable, it will only emphasize existing patterns in income inequality, which pays the work of white men higher than the rest of the American workforce.
According to the Pew Research Center, the two ethnic and gender groups which make the least amount of money on average are Black and Hispanic women, at thirteen and twelve dollars an hour respectively. Black men also average the lowest hourly wage of males, at around fourteen dollars an hour. All groups of women have narrowed the wage gap between themselves and white men since 1980, albeit by marginal amounts. Black women narrowed the gap by nine cents, while Hispanic women were only able to earn another nickel. Black and Hispanic men, however, have been unable to lose the racial wage gap.
Part of this discrepancy is due to education level, but even in a group of men who all hold Bachelor’s degrees, Black men continue to earn only eighty percent of a white man’s wages. Black and Hispanic women fare poorly in these calculations as well, earning only seventy percent of the wages that white men earn. These additional gaps are often attributed to differences in industry and occupation, but some “non-concrete” figures, such as innate prejudices, also play a role. For example, racist attitudes held by a schoolteacher may have discouraged a Black student from STEM, while her white classmate was urged to enter that field. The siphoning away of African Americans from high-paying fields continues to be endemic in the United States.
Income inequality has historically created deep stratification between racial and gender groups that only increase with generations. While education and shifts in social mindsets have helped to lessen the gap, a significant amount of progress still stands to be made. To truly eliminate the status gap in American society, we as a country must ensure that every citizen can earn a living wage, and that that those earnings are not compromised someone’s race.