Income inequality is exactly as the name suggests. It is the uneven distribution of financial gain among people, resulting in an ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor. The US, in particular, exhibits high levels of income inequality. In fact, economists estimate that 70% of the world’s countries are more equal than the US. Many factors come into play when explaining this economic condition, although, it is important to recognize the racial and gendered components that contribute to this disparity. The following article takes a look at the income inequality among individuals of different race and gender.
Race, Gender, and Wage Gaps in America
The divide between the “haves” and the “have-nots” has been increasing over the last half century or so. Individuals on the side of inequality experience low income and economic instability, caught in the cycle of poverty. Those people living in poverty or with low economic resources are disproportionately women and minorities.
The highest earners in the United States are Asian men, who earn $1,080 per week on average, followed by white men, who earn an average of $897 per week. This can be explained, in part, by looking at where the majority of the Asian population resides which is in higher paying states. Another influential element is that Asian men attain higher levels of education than their white counterparts.
Top Female Earners
Following Asian and white men are Asian and white women. The same trend is seen between these two groups with Asian women earning slightly more, $841 per week, and white women earning $734 weekly. Asian Americans and white Americans, both men and women, are concentrated in professional, white-collar positions such as management or administration. This indicates a disparity in occupations as well because other racial groups tend to be employed in blue-collar or service industry jobs.
Non-Asian Minority Men
Among African Americans, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and Indigenous Alaskans, men all earn more than women. African American men earn more than other racial groups, $680 per week. This is followed by Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander men who earn approximately $632 weekly. Native American and Alaskan men have incomes around $623 per week and Hispanic men come in behind other men with only $616. One of the factors that contributes to these differences is levels of education among minority groups. Often, these groups have lower levels of education which has its own long history of structurally violent policies that have presented these individuals with greater obstacles in attaining high school diplomas and degrees. Additionally, the US has ingrained racism in hiring and promoting practices leaving minorities to struggle with unequal pay.
Non-Asian Minority Women
Minority women make up the remaining low earners in the country, and follow almost the same pattern as the men. African American women earn $611 per week while Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders earn approximately $556. Hispanic women, however, earn more than Native American and Alaskan women, $548 and $529 per week respectively. Not only is there a gender gap in wages, but women are also less likely to own assets and retirement accounts than men. These numbers reflect the that has been placed on women in the workforce. Women in the same occupation as a man will earn less, only 78% of the salary paid to men. Once women began joining the workforce, society dictated which industries were “appropriate” for women (sometimes referred to as pink-collar jobs). As a result, women are more likely to work as teachers, nurses, and in non-profits than men. These are all lower paying jobs.
Implications of Wage Disparity
As previously discussed, the wage disparity among races and between genders has many influential factors, including education, discrimination, residential location, and occupational differences. Whichever the factor, poverty is both the cause and effect. Inequality in wages prevents upward mobility for the individual, their family, and the economy.