July 1, 2016

Racial, gender wage gaps persist in U.S. despite some progress

White men out-earn black and Hispanic men and all groups of women

Large racial and gender wage gaps in the U.S. remain, even as they have narrowed in some cases over the years. Among full- and part-time workers in the U.S., blacks in 2015 earned just 75% as much as whites in median hourly earnings and women earned 83% as much as men.

Looking at gender, race and ethnicity combined, all groups, with the exception of Asian men, lag behind white men in terms of median hourly earnings, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. White men are often used in comparisons such as this because they are the largest demographic group in the workforce – 33% in 2015.

White men had higher hourly earnings than all except Asian men in 2015In 2015, average hourly wages for black and Hispanic men were $15 and $14, respectively, compared with $21 for white men. Only the hourly earnings of Asian men ($24) outpaced those of white men.

Among women across all races and ethnicities, hourly earnings lag behind those of white men and men in their own racial or ethnic group. But the hourly earnings of Asian and white women ($18 and $17, respectively) are higher than those of black and Hispanic women ($13 and $12, respectively) – and also higher than those of black and Hispanic men.

While the hourly earnings of white men continue to outpace those of women, all groups of women have made progress in narrowing this wage gap since 1980, reflecting at least in part a significant increase in the education levels and workforce experience of women over time. 

White and Asian women have narrowed the wage gap with white men to a much greater degree than black and Hispanic women. For example, white women narrowed the wage gap in median hourly earnings by 22 cents from 1980 (when they earned, on average, 60 cents for every dollar earned by a white man) to 2015 (when they earned 82 cents). By comparison, black women only narrowed that gap by 9 cents, from earning 56 cents for every dollar earned by a white man in 1980 to 65 cents today. Asian women followed roughly the trajectory of white women (but earned a slightly higher 87 cents per dollar earned by a white man in 2015), whereas Hispanic women fared even worse than black women, narrowing the gap by just 5 cents (earning 58 cents on the dollar in 2015).

Black and Hispanic men, for their part, have made no progress in narrowing the wage gap with white men since 1980, in part because there have been no improvements in the hourly earnings of white, black or Hispanic men over this 35-year period. As a result, black men earned the same 73% share of white men’s hourly earnings in 1980 as they did in 2015, and Hispanic men earned 69% of white men’s earnings in 2015 compared with 71% in 1980.

Controlling for education, white men still out-earned most groups in 2015To be sure, some of these wage gaps can be attributed to the fact that lower shares of blacks and Hispanics are college educated. U.S. workers with a four-year college degree earn significantly more than those who have not completed college. Among adults ages 25 and older, 23% of blacks and 15% of Hispanics have a bachelor’s degree or more education, compared with 36% of whites and 53% of Asians.

However, looking just at those with a bachelor’s degree or more education, wage gaps by gender, race and ethnicity persist. College-educated black and Hispanic men earn roughly 80% the hourly wages of white college educated men ($25 and $26 vs. $32, respectively). White and Asian college-educated women also earn roughly 80% the hourly wages of white college-educated men ($25 and $27, respectively). However, black and Hispanic women with a college degree earn only about 70% the hourly wages of similarly educated white men ($23 and $22, respectively). As with workers overall, college-educated Asian men out-earn college-educated white men by about $3 per hour of work.

What contributes to these persistent wage gaps? Research shows that a majority of each of these gaps can be explained by differences in education, labor force experience, occupation or industry and other measurable factors.

For example, NBER researchers Francine Blau and Lawerence Kahn found that education and workforce experience accounted for 8% of the total gender wage gap in 2010, while industry and occupation explained 51% of the difference. When it comes to race, sociologists Eric Grodsky and Devah Pager found that education and workforce experience accounted for 52% of the wage gap between black and white men working in the public sector in 1990, and that adding occupational differences explained approximately 20% of the wage gap. And NBER researcher Roland Fryer found that for one group of adults in their 40s, controlling for standardized-test scores reduced the wage gap between black men and white men in 2006 by roughly 70%.

The remaining gaps not explained by these concrete factors are often attributed, at least in part, to discrimination. Blau and Kahn point out, however, that there are both portions of this “unmeasured” difference that could be due to factors other than discrimination (e.g., gender differences in behaviors like risk aversion or negotiation) as well as portions of the “measured” difference that may in fact be due to discrimination (e.g., a woman or minority not entering a high-paying STEM field because of experiences that may be rooted in prejudice, such as greater encouragement for men than women to pursue these studies).

Blacks' and whites' views and experiences of the U.S. workplace differWhen it comes to racial discrimination in the workplace, most Americans (60%) say blacks and whites are treated about equally, but opinions on this vary considerably across racial and ethnic groups. A new Pew Research Center report finds that roughly two-thirds (64%) of blacks say black people in the U.S. are generally treated less fairly than whites in the workplace; just 22% of whites and 38% of Hispanics agree.

About two-in-ten black adults (21%) and 16% of Hispanics say that in the past year they have been treated unfairly in hiring, pay or promotion because of their race or ethnicity; just 4% of white adults say the same. And while 40% of blacks say their race or ethnicity has made it harder for them to succeed in life, just 5% of whites – and 20% of Hispanics – say this. Some 31% of whites say their race or ethnicity has eased the way toward their success. At least six-in-ten whites (62%) and Hispanics (65%), and about half of blacks (51%), say their race or ethnicity hasn’t made much of a difference.

For their part, about a quarter of women (27%) say their gender has made it harder for them to succeed in life, compared with just 7% of men. About six-in-ten men and women say their gender hasn’t made much difference, but men are much more likely than women to say their gender has made it easier to succeed (30% vs. 8%). In addition, a 2013 Pew Research Center survey found that about one-in-five women (18%) say they have faced gender discrimination at work, including 12% who say they have earned less than a man doing the same job because of their gender. By comparison, one-in-ten men say they have faced gender-based workplace discrimination, including 3% who say their gender has been a factor in earning lower wages.

Topics: Gender, Income Inequality, Race and Ethnicity, Work and Employment

  1. Photo of Eileen Patten

    is a research analyst focusing on Hispanic, social and demographic trends at Pew Research Center.

26 Comments

  1. Anonymous3 months ago

    How is Asian defined in this study?

  2. Anonymous3 months ago

    Equal outcomes are not the same as either equal opportunity or equal treatment. Sorry, but they just aren’t…although it is usually possible to force a stubborn mule to do just about any trick you wish provided you have sufficient amounts of tasty carrots and big sticks.

    1. Anonymous3 months ago

      I totally agree that equal outcomes are not the same as either equal opportunity or equal treatment. Some are given opportunities in which they are set up for success via coaching and mentoring, while others are set up for failure and left to learn/fend for themselves when it comes to the workplace.

  3. Anonymous3 months ago

    The BLS data is not fully normalized. For instance, we don’t know if they are comparing Chinese-American anesthesiologists with English-American geologists in their “Management, professional, and related occupations” category. It is thus highly inaccurate to claim a racial wage gap from such data.

  4. Anonymous3 months ago

    Thank you for sharing this data.

    Oddly enough, it appears racial discrimination is the hardest to prove via EEOC statistics and case standards even though we all know it exists. Also it appears this specific form of discrimination is often pushed to the back burner.

    Equality is not just for the LBGT groups. Minorities have been seeking help/justice for racial inequalities for years. ALL forms of discrimination should be consider illegal and that should be evident in how agencies like the EEOC pursue and treat claims of discrimination and specifically racial discrimination.

  5. Fabio Facchettì3 months ago

    I like how this glossed all over Jews who would top the chart. Comfortably conflated with whites to make it seem whites are much richer than they are.

  6. Anonymous3 months ago

    Why are jews never mentioned in these studies?
    I’ve been trying hard to find information on the wage gap between jews and whites of european decent.
    I guess it’s antisemitic to compare a Jew’s financial income to that of another race…

    1. Anonymous3 months ago

      I think ethnic Jews are now lumped with whites as many European immigrant groups are after a few generations; since the end of World War II, Jews have been considered a religious group rather than an ethnic group, when in actuality, they’re both. There are black Jews from Africa, Arab and Persian Jews who come from Jewish diaspora that have lived among Arabs and Persians for centuries, European Jews, and apparently, even Chinese Jews, though I don’t think their numbers are significant in the US.

    2. Anonymous3 months ago

      Because Jewish people are white according to the census. Judaism is a religion, not race.

  7. Anonymous3 months ago

    Good day,

    i was wondering what methodology did you use to conduct the research? did you use panel data or cross section data? what is the source of your data?

    I am a student of MA Economics from Canada and i will be pursuing the same topic but from canadian perspective. So it would help me a lot if you can guide me to right directions.

    Kind regards,
    Mehedi

    1. Bruce Drake3 months ago

      The post was based on our analysis of US Bureau of Labor Statistics data

  8. Anonymous3 months ago

    Wage gap versus Death Gap (92 % male) – an alternate form of discrimination ?

    According to the Bureau of Labor statistics :

    92 % of work related deaths in the U.S. happen to men. [1][2]

    Adjusting down for the fact that men work 57 % of the total
    work hours, this still means that there is still a substantial
    DEATH GAP :

    Men are more than 8 TIMES ( 800 % ) more likely to
    suffer work related death than women.

    Clearly the wage gap [3] is an important potential source of
    discrimination against women that should be evaluated and addressed,
    but similarly the DEATH GAP is an important potential source of
    discrimination against men that should be evaluated and addressed,

    Men die younger, and are much more likely to be homeless or
    in prison – all bad outcomes that – in fairness – also require
    attention regarding potential discrimination.

    References :

    [1] bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cfch0010.pdf

    Page/Slide 8.

    [2] bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/cfoi_rate…

    [3] What’s the real gender pay gap?

    washingtonpost.com/opinions/what…

    by G. Holt Gholt87@gsb.columbia.edu

  9. Anonymous3 months ago

    I wonder if the study compares the different races among people with the same college educations – in other words, are they comparing White and Black and Asian and Hispanic men with bachelor’s degrees in engineering? Or are they comparing Asian men with engineering degrees, White men with business degrees, Black men with degrees in Black-studies, and so forth. Disparities in the former might mean something. Disparities in the latter simply demonstrate the different earning power of different educations. It’s well known that men spend more hours working for money than do women (as with paid or unpaid overtime) and that men choose more difficult and competitive careers. Asians and Whites choose well-paid degree areas (engineering, science, etc) at rates far above Blacks and Hispanics, as do males over females. Females are vastly over-represented in low-paid areas like secondary education and fine arts. Men are also more ambitious and aggressive in moving up a career ladder than are women. Asians help one another much more than do other racial groups. I wonder if the Pew study discussed in this article took these elements into account. That would make for far more interesting reading.

  10. Anonymous3 months ago

    This kind of “study” is completely nonsense, because it is comparing apple to orange. Each races are composited by apples, oranges and pears… If same job is paid different, that is called discrimination.
    I was forced to believe the author had a hidden agenda….

  11. Michael Park3 months ago

    Why aren’t Asians studied more carefully in this article? Why aren’t they asked about discrimination in the workplace? Perhaps the fact that they do so much better is an indicator that discrimination is not the problem in the workplace as this article wants to make it appear.

    The only fair comparison is to look at this by job categories, weighted by demographics, education, and work experience. By lumping these together, it makes it far too simplistic in determining if discrimination is an important driver of wage disparities.

  12. Anonymous3 months ago

    This study is erroneously combining wages and earnings. The results for Asian men look too good to be true. Would the same figures hold if the study is broken down by industry or career level? It would be interesting to see the differences for senior executives, mid-managers, and entry-level positions.

  13. Anonymous3 months ago

    In comparing the earnings of similarly educated men or women, just looking at the number of years of schooling is not helpful. I would also want to know what their areas of study are. People with a Master’s in English Literature are going to make less than those with a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering, despite having more years of schooling.

  14. Mike Stamper3 months ago

    “College-educated black and Hispanic men earn roughly 80% the hourly wages of white college educated men” Analyses like these are written for political purposes (i.e. pseudo justification for wealth redistribution). No one ever asks the question: which demographic groups are more productive and creative? The assumption is that everyone contributes equally. That’s not true. “Equal pay for equal work” is a joke and a lie. No two people are equally productive. Wealth inequality reflects the unequal distribution of intelligence, creativity, and work ethic. Wealth inequality is both just and desirable. Efforts to level income and wealth via forced redistribution demoralize our most valuable contributors and invariably lead to social conflict and economic, political, intellectual and moral decline.

  15. Michael Polgar3 months ago

    Thanks for this research and summary. I hope we continue to recognize and remember that discrimination is illegal and unjust, whether or not discrimination is found to make a significant contribution to ethno-racial or gendered economic inequalities, like those for wages.

  16. Brian McInnis3 months ago

    Asians and whites are overlapping designations, as Asians such as Russians, Jews et cetera are usually termed ‘white’.

    1. Anonymous3 months ago

      Jews are not Asian nor are most Russians.

      Jews are Semitic Middle Eastern, the same thing as their Arab counterparts, and all Semitics are classified as White for their skin color and shared history (the Western civilization came from Mesopotamia’s ancient civilizations, who were half Caucasian and half Semitic). This is even ignoring the fact that most Jews have also interbred with Caucasians in the recent decades.

      Russians are Slavic White Europeans, the original people from the north of the Ural Mountain Range. While big parts from Russia are indeed in Asia, the people living in those places are either Slavs or people who have heavily interbred with the Slavs. This is even ignoring that a big bulk of the Russian emigrants comes from their Caucasus holdings, that is, obviously, the most Caucasian (White) area you can find to start with.

      The unique overlaps between White and Asian (and frankly with any West/East identification) happens in Iran and with the people with Iranian origins in the neighbor countries. While in Kazakhstan most are also White just like some people from Northern India, they prefer to identify themselves as Asians for their cultural background.

  17. Bruce Strong3 months ago

    The Obama Administration will soon announce their plans to rename Mt. Rushmore to Mt. Sitting Bull..

  18. Anonymous3 months ago

    Please stop this stupidity. Go read the difference between “wages” and “earnings” before writing an article with “wages” in the title and using “earnings” in every single graph. Of course men make more earnings in their lifetime than women because women stop working around their 30s to raise children. And of course Asian and White people earn more money in their lifetimes because they (generally) go into careers that pay more. Stop writing falsities and get your “facts” straight.

    1. Anonymous3 months ago

      God Bless This Comment

    2. Anonymous3 months ago

      Easy now Anonymous. It seems to me that hourly wages (okay, earnings) and those gaps are used to talk about wage gaps. Also, it is difficult to parse out some of those stereotypes that you bring up. Pew is giving us a starting point by which to think about these tricker data further. Thanks Pew.