Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
By and large, white men still lead in median hourly wages, a new study reveals.
There are good reasons for all the disgruntlement. Inflation-adjusted wages have been flat for decades, but productivity (the goods and services workers produce per hour) has risen steadily. That means that people are being compensated far less than they should be for the work they’re doing. And among these U.S. workers, not everyone is on equal footing. The top 1 percent is making 25 times as much everyone else, and despite modest improvements, racial and gender disparities just refuse to go away.
A new study by the Pew Research Center adds credence to that last point. Researchers compared the hourly median wages of male and female workers in different racial groups to those of white men—the largest demographic group among the U.S. workforce. (They’re also the most historically and economically privileged.) In their report, the researchers share their findings that black men made only 73 percent per as much as their white counterparts did in 2015, and that Hispanic men earned just 69 percent as much per hour. Only Asian workers were better off: at $24 per hour, they made $3 more per hour than their white counterparts (that’s about 117 percent of the hourly earnings of white men).
Among women, Asians made 87 percent of what white men did, followed by white women at 82 percent. Black and Hispanic female workers lagged behind at 65 and 58 percent, respectively.
Some of these gaps (shown in Pew’s chart below) are narrowing—but not nearly fast enough. And measurable factors such as differences in education, skills, or industry characteristics don’t completely explain their stubborn persistence. “The remaining gaps not explained by these concrete factors are often attributed, at least in part, to discrimination,” the Pew report reads.