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

Uneven Ground: How Race and Origin Impact Economic Opportunity in Washington

Founded as a nation of immigrants, the United States has remained so throughout its expansion and development, and today, immigration continues to shape and reshape the country and its states. The U.S.’s history as an immigrant nation has created the rich racial and ethnic diversity that strengthens our society and creates the unique American experience that enables the country to thrive.

But while most public dialogue still revolves around the ideal that every hardworking person has an equal opportunity to succeed here – regardless of their status at birth – the facts tell us that is simply not the case. The troubling reality is that people of color and immigrants are simply not afforded the same opportunity that is made available to many white and native-born Washingtonians.

In Washington state circa 2016, people of color and foreign-born individuals face significant disadvantages at each stage of life; conversely, white and native-born people disproportionately receive, and benefit from, more economic opportunity than others. Not surprisingly, a wide variety of measures of economic security and indicators of upward mobility show that on average, whites consistently experience better outcomes than people of color, and the native-born population consistently experiences better outcomes than the foreign-born population.

MISSING THE MARK: RACE EQUITY AND MISSED OPPORTUNITIES IN THE 2015 SESSION

While there were a few bright spots, it was a tough year for racial equity and opportunity at the legislature. Lawmakers passed policies that will limit opportunities for many Arkansas families. They also failed to pass policies that would have given more Arkansans a chance to thrive and succeed in the future. These policies affect all low-income families. But they are especially hard on children and families of color because they face higher rates of poverty.  For example, 20 percent of white Arkansas children live in poverty. More than double that, 43 percent, of Hispanic children live in poverty. For African-American kids, it’s 50 percent!

Same Work, Less Pay: The Wage Gap in Alabama

Imagine the uproar if football officials suddenly were to declare touchdowns worth six points for one team but only five points for the other. Many workers both in Alabama and nationwide encounter just that sort of shortfall with every paycheck they receive. Despite decades of steady improvement, sizable earnings gaps remain between women and men and between racial minorities and non-minorities, both in Alabama and nationwide.

This fact sheet examines the history of wage discrimination, the scope of today’s disparities and how an Equal Pay Commission could help Alabama close the gap.