Racial Wage Gap

The best way to advance policies to raise living standards for working people is for diverse groups to recognize that they share more in common than not. Since class identity has often been racialized, one of the greatest challenges to rebuilding the economic power of the working class lies in establishing multiracial solidarity on a national scale. It is important to remember that the same special interest groups that fund the opposition to policies such as the minimum wage and paid sick leave, and that support efforts to undermine collective bargaining power, are often the same ones aligned with support of voter suppression tactics that limit voting among people of color, low-income individuals, students, seniors, and people with disabilities. The best way to advance the needed economic policies is for diverse groups to recognize that they share more in common than not and work together to achieve their overlapping and intersecting agendas. Getting to that point requires honesty and a collective reckoning about race, white privilege, and institutional racism, with respect to the costs and benefits to each of us.

Advancing policies that address persistent racial disparities while also tackling class inequality will require abandoning the zero-sum mindset that says one group’s set of issues is totally distinct from and in direct competition with another’s. Overcoming this trap begins with defining a broader view of how all the issues are related. It will take a considerable amount of ongoing effort to shift the dominant narrative from one that divides the masses to one that creates a new world of possibilities that benefits all of us.

Publications

State of Working Philadelphia 2018

Each Labor Day the Keystone Research Center releases an annual checkup on the health of the Pennsylvania labor market, “The State of Working Pennsylvania.” (https://www.keystoneresearch.org/SWP2018). The 2018 edition focused on state-level data, mostly available through June 2018. This addendum to that report focuses on 2017 data released last month by the Census Bureau on incomes and poverty for Philadelphia. We complement the Census data with statistics on employment and unemployment from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to provide a comprehensive assessment of the performance of the Philadelphia economy since 2005. We start with the year 2005 as that is the first year in which data at the county level are available from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

State of Working North Carolina

  • September 6, 2018
  • North Carolina Justice Center
  • Alexandra Forter Sirota, Allan Freyer, Patrick McHugh, Suzy Khachaturyan, William Munn, and Hyun Namkoong
As North Carolina grapples with the best way to build stronger regional economies, policymakers should consider the central and positive role that public infrastructure can play in deepening the connections for the state’s workforce to jobs, the state’s businesses to markets and the state’s residents to well-being.
This year’s State of Working North Carolina report presents the ways in which public infrastructure and local assets — specifically, anchor institutions — can help connect workers in rural areas to jobs, boost rural communities, and contribute to more equitable growth of the state’s economy.

State of Working Wisconsin 2018

  • August 31, 2018
  • COWS
  • Laura Dresser, Joel Rogers, Emanuel Ubert, and Anna Walther

A decade after the Great Recession, Wisconsin’s economy, at least in employment and family income, has finally and meaningfully recovered. Unemployment and involuntary part-time employment rates are low. And, nearly a fifth of the way into this new century, the value of the median income of four-person families finally exceeds its 2000 level. This is very welcome news for working Wisconsinites.

This good news is not untarnished. Despite job gains, Wisconsin’s job growth is slow relative to the national pace. Wages are still in no way keeping pace with worker productivity. Wisconsin is comparatively weak in more lucrative occupations: professional, scientific, technical, and information. Our manufacturing sector, while growing, is a still significantly smaller than at the beginning of the century. And inequality continues to grow. One in five workers currently holds a poverty-wage job with few benefits. Rural economies are declining. Wisconsin’s black/white disparities still lead the nation.