Wage Gaps Are Widening Between Black and White Workers, New Report Finds
A new report from The Conference Board finds that wage gaps between Black and White workers are widening — even those of employees with comparable backgrounds and qualifications.
In 2010, for instance, Black men with a bachelor’s degree or higher earned 18% less than White men. By 2019, that gap had grown to 24%, driven by “the striking underrepresentation of Black workers in high-paying industries and occupations,” according to The Conference Board, a New York-based think tank.
The Conference Board’s “Mind the Gap: Factors Driving Racial Wage Gaps and the Solutions to Close Them” identifies several factors that are leading to growing racial wage gaps at the same time U.S. companies are elevating diversity and inclusion as a cornerstone of their brands and business strategies. If the trends of the last decade continue, today’s wage gaps are poised to grow as Black workers are severely underrepresented in fields and job markets likely to see the fastest growth in high-paying jobs, the report found, yet it also reveals how innovations like remote work can counteract these forces in the years ahead.
“Business leaders and policymakers alike must recognize the recent trends in racial disparities in the 21st-century economy,” said Gad Levanon, vice president of labor markets at The Conference Board. “Differences in educational attainment, lack of access to professional networks and legacies of bias continue to play key roles in White-Black earning gaps. But increasingly, reversing these trends will require addressing deeply rooted labor market segmentation and geographical segregation in restricting access to high-growth fields.”
Among the report’s key findings are:
• Technology jobs have seen an increase in the number of high earners in recent years. However, only 4% of top earners in this group are Black, compared to 6% in other industries. Among software developers — which have seen the highest income growth of all — Black representation stands at just 3.3%.
• Black workers are similarly underrepresented in other booming fields for top earners, accounting for just 2.8% of top-earning CEOs and 3.8% of top earners in marketing management.
• Some industries and jobs with a large concentration of Black workers among top earners — including government, health, and education— are shrinking.
• As a result of this labor market segmentation, Black college graduates— and, to a lesser extent, White women as well — have seen their wage gaps widen compared to White men.
The report found that geography is partly responsible for the low representation of Black workers in the tech sector and opens avenues for addressing the problem. The issue of Black underrepresentation in the tech sector is not new, and previous efforts to address the gap have yielded little. But since 2020, a critical mass of CEOs and human capital managers have publicly pledged to diversify their ranks and build more inclusive cultures — a critical first step in acknowledging the issue, the report said.