In 2010, Black men with bachelor’s degrees or higher earned about 18% less than their white peers. By 2019, that gap jumped to 24% even though many companies are actively pursuing diversity and inclusion goals.
Why is the pay gap so large? Why is it growing? A nonprofit research organization called the Conference Board, which posted the numbers, attributes the problem to several factors. For one, there is both geographic and labor market segregation. For another, Black people tend to have less access to educational opportunities and social or professional networks. Ultimately, the organization says there is “striking underrepresentation” of Black people in high-paying occupations and industries.
For example, consider the high-tech industry, which has seen a surge in high earners in the past decade or so. While Black workers account for 6% of high earners in the economy as a whole, they only make up 4% in the high-tech industry.
Black people are also underrepresented in other high-earning jobs such as CEO (only 2.5%) and marketing management (just 3.8%). Meanwhile, the top tier of earnings is shrinking in the industries and jobs where there are large concentrations of Black workers available.
Moreover, Black people with bachelor’s degrees are much more likely than whites to work in a job that doesn’t require the degree, which likely means that they are being shut out of college-graduate level jobs more often.
“Reversing these trends will require addressing deeply rooted labor market segmentation and geographical segregation in restricting access to high-growth fields,” said a spokesperson for the Conference Board.
Remote work could bring greater opportunities, more equality
Since one of the factors that could be leading to this wage gap is geographic segregation, the growth of remote work could help close the gap.
As it stands, there just aren’t enough high-wage jobs available in the areas where Black people and other people of color live. That means that Black folks may need to move to new locations to find higher paying jobs, and that could not only be inconvenient but also place them at a competitive disadvantage.
If the change toward hiring more remote employees continues, Black workers could access higher-paying employment without having to relocate.
Whatever the cause or remedy, we all need to be aware of the rising wage gap between Black workers and their white peers. It is surprising and somewhat disheartening to see this wage gap grow instead of shrink, despite many efforts to close it.
Have you experienced the wage gap firsthand? If you believe you have, you may have a claim under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act or a state anti-discrimination law.