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This Is Uncomfortable

What’s behind the growing black-white pay gap

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Sep 21, 2016
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A job seeker fills out an application at a career fair in Midtown Manhattan, New York City.
John Moore/Getty Images

The Economic Policy Institute has released a new study on the growing pay gap between white and African-American workers.

Right now, African-American men make 22 percent less than their white peers. African-American women make 34 percent less.

The study looks at wages from 1979 to 2015. It reaches some surprising conclusions. For example, among African-Americans with a degree:

“College graduates actually saw their gap widen more than any other educational group over this period of time,” said study co-author Valerie Wilson

Wilson said there just aren’t that many African-Americans in the top 1 percent of earners, where wage growth is fastest.  

Wilson said young African-American women, in particular, have lost ground since the recession. Because fewer went to college. They couldn’t afford it. And there’s another reason they fell behind. Office jobs that don’t require degrees are disappearing.

“Fewer and fewer of the support jobs are available as people become their own secretaries and their own phone answerers,” said Margaret Simms of the Urban Institute.

Older African-American men are also struggling. The study says many joined the workforce during the recession of the 1980s, at lower starting salaries. That left them permanently behind.

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