WASHINGTON – The wage gap between black workers and white workers remains wide, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute.
Black men make 22 percent less and black women make 34.2 percent less than their white counterparts. And yet, poverty or wage growth weren’t addressed in any detail Monday night during the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
When race comes up in these debate formats, it’s all about “black criminals who need to be locked up” or the mass incarceration system, said Dorian Warren, Roosevelt Institute fellow and a member of the Black Lives Matter economic policy team. “Black workers are missing from the discussion.”
Warren was joined by the Economic Policy Institute’s Valerie Wilson –co-author of the wage gap report, William Rodgers, public policy professor at Rutgers University, and Richard Freeman of Harvard University at a panel Tuesday at the left leaning think-tank.
Tanzina Vega, CNN national race and inequality reporter, as well as panel moderator, said she was surprised that there was no mention of Black Lives Matter during the 90-minute debate. Rather, questions and answers focused on gun laws and the broader topic of social justice.
“I think we tend to get less substantive conversation about economic inequality and injustice because there’s not really a body camera for wage inequality,” said Wilson, director of the institute’s race, ethnicity, and the economy program.
EPI’s report, published last week, takes a deep look into factors that contribute to the wage gap, making adjustments for years of education, years of potential experience, and regional differences. Data from the Current Population Survey Merged Outgoing Rotation Group files at the Bureau of Labor Statistics were used.
The trends cited by the institute could have an impact future economic policy. The U.S. Census Bureau has estimated that by 2044 whites will no longer constitute the majority in the U.S.
The most effective solution to the racial wage gap going forward is to look at issues such as health care, voting rights, or incarceration individually, said Dorian Warren.
“We can’t just use the same flat policy. What are the conditions of a particular place and what are the remedies required to address the racial wage gap? The gender wage gap? The intersections?” Warren called for both presidential candidates address these issues and consider the condition of African Americans and their communities.
EPI report co-authors Wilson and Rutgers’ William Rodgers included recommendations calling for more consistent enforcement of anti-discrimination laws in the hiring, promotion, and pay of women of color. They also urged an increase in the $7.25 an hour the federal minimum wage law.