Pay gap persists for African-Americans

By Les Christie, staff writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- African-American workers continue to earn far less than whites, according to statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Furthermore, little progress has been made over the years to close the income gap. At a per-capita income of $18,054 in 2008, African-American earnings were just 57.9% that of whites' $28,502. That was a slight improvement over 2007 when black income was just 56.4%, but down from 2005, when it was 59.3%.

Those figures are averages and they can be skewed by the very high income of relatively few individuals. But even examining median incomes, the point in a population where half the people earn more and half less, which should shrink the difference because it gives no extra weight to inflated earners, the racial gap still exists.

According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, whites earned a median of $756 weekly during the three months ended June 30, 25% more than blacks, who earned $607.

"There are, of course, individual cases where people can overcome the pay disparity, but unfortunately, we're still seeing the trend," said Monique Morris, Vice President for Research and Advocacy for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

African-Americans are over-represented in the lowest earnings categories and under-represented in the highest earning ones.

More than half of all blacks, 15 years old or over and working full-time, earned under $35,000 in 2008. Only 35% of white workers earned less than that.

On the other hand, 10.8% of all white workers made more than $100,000 a year, the highest income category in the Census report. That compared with just 3.3% of blacks earning six-figure salaries.

Reasons for the gap

According to Morris, much of the shortfall may be traced to educational achievement. The Census report revealed that only 19.7% of African-Americans had bachelor's or advanced degrees. That compared with 32.6% for whites. And 17% of blacks had not graduated from high school, exactly twice the rate of whites.

Family wealth, low for blacks, also restricts opportunities; it limits access to good schools growing up and private colleges in young adulthood.

Wealthier families also tend to have wider social networks of successful friends and relatives, often a key to opening a door to a higher-paying career.

Morris said discrimination also plays a role, with the NAACP still documenting cases in which blacks with equal or better qualifications are offered less money to do the same jobs as white colleagues.

And once anyone, white or black, settles for less pay than they deserve, their earnings power can be affected for years. Working a low-paying job usually means climbing the earnings ladder step by step, with income lagging behind other members of an age group every step of the way.

"Part of what you get paid for is your work history," said Morris. The wages for each new job builds on the previous ones.

Ending hiring discrimination and giving job applicants the information they should have concerning pay scales would go a long way toward narrowing the disparity between white and black income, according to Morris.

"When you start out with a level playing field and are transparent about pay during the rest of the hiring process, the outcomes are more favorable for everyone," she said. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,115.50 8.80 0.05%
Nasdaq 4,569.10 -1.54 -0.03%
S&P 500 1,999.62 -0.40 -0.02%
Treasuries 2.37 -0.02 -0.84%
Data as of 11:32am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 16.27 -0.06 -0.37%
Facebook Inc 74.69 -1.27 -1.67%
Apple Inc 101.05 0.16 0.16%
Yahoo! Inc 38.00 0.21 0.56%
Pfizer Inc 29.54 0.32 1.11%
Data as of 11:16am ET

Sections

Standard General, largest investor for troubled electronics retailer, in talks to give RadioShack cash infusion it needs More

If we want to narrow the wealth gap, we need a better path to homeownership for low-income families. More

Apple is expected to launch the iPhone 6 in two weeks, but waiting until then to sell your old iPhone means you're way late to the game. More

Utah State professor Michael Glauser cycled 4,000 miles this summer, visiting 100 entrepreneurs across the country. Here's a snapshot of how they grew their businesses. More

Mary Fallon, from Durham, Maine, is a mother of three children, two dogs, 25 chickens and a flock of 22 sheep. Here are journal entries from a day in her life. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.