Employment disparities along racial lines have resulted in a $220 billion annual gap between the wages earned by Black Americans today and what they would be earning if their occupational numbers across business sectors were proportional to their percentage of the US population, the study noted.
“Achieving this scenario would boost total Black wages by 30% and draw approximately one million additional Black workers into employment,” the study said.
Lead author Shelley Stewart III says addressing the major wealth disparities between Black and White households has larger implications for the living conditions of all Americans, the study found.
“The lack of participation [by Black Americans] economically has substantial dampening effects for the broader US economy,” Stewart told CNN Business.
The study also quantifies how Black Americans, who make up about 13% of the US population, are concentrated in lower-wage occupations and underrepresented in higher-paying careers. Black workers represent just 5% of the nation’s physicians and 4.5% of its software developers.
Yet roughly 35% of all US nursing assistants, an occupation with a median wage of just $23,000, and one-third of all security guards and school bus drivers are Black.
“The racial wage disparity is the product of both representational imbalances and pay gaps within occupational categories and it is a surprisingly concentrated phenomenon,” the study authors wrote.
Double hurdle of sexism and racism
“Women of all races are less represented in leadership roles, but women of color face double hurdles of sexism and racism,” the study authors wrote.
Stewart says these imbalances can’t be solved by Black Americans alone. A combination of intervention from both the government and private industry are key.
“We have a particular moment, which unfortunately was prompted by the murder of George Floyd and the disproportionate impact of Covid 19 impact on Black Americans,” he said, “to really re-examine that we approach racial justice through this frame of broader economic participation.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated how many Black Americans have a negative net worth. It is 3.5 million Black households. It also misstated the figure for White Americans. The study found that 8% of White American households have a negative net worth.