Business & Money

More Proof Economic Discrimination Exists And Persists

By Nisa Islam Muhammad -Staff Writer- | Last updated: Oct 3, 2017 - 12:08:44 AM

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Contrary to the widespread beliefs that Blacks have “made it” and have overcome economic discrimination, recent data from three studies show those beliefs are wrong. The wage gap between Blacks and Whites has worsened and the level of discrimination in hiring remains unchanged over the past 25 years.

A study by the National Academy of Sciences, “Americans Misperceive Racial Economic Equality,” found widespread misperception of race-based economic equality in the United States. Across four studies sampling White and Black Americans from the top and bottom of national income distribution, participants overestimated progress toward Black—White economic equality, largely driven by estimates of greater current equality than actually exists, according to national statistics.

“These findings suggest a profound misperception of, and unfounded optimism regarding, societal race-based economic equality,” concluded the research team led by Michael Kraus of the Yale University School of Management.

This ignorance “is likely to have important consequences for public policy,” the researchers warned in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “We cannot solve problems that we do not know exist, or that we think are already solving themselves.”

“High-income White Americans’ overestimates of current racial economic equality were larger than those generated by low-income White Americans, and by Black Americans across the income distribution,” they noted. “It is likely that high-income White individuals’ tendency to believe that the country has already achieved equal rights, if not outcomes, between racial groups contributes to these misperceptions.”

The reality is that the wage gap between Blacks and Whites is worsening. Economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco found in their latest study, “Black men and women earn persistently lower wages compared with their White counterparts.” A gap that “cannot be fully explained by differences in age, education, job type, or location,” it added.

“In 1979, the average Black man in America earned about 80 percent of the average White man,” wrote the research team led by economist Mary Daly. “By 2016, this gap had grown such that the average Black male worker earned just 70 percent of the hourly wage of the average White male worker. The data for women show a similar pattern. In 1979, the average Black woman earned about 95 percent of the average White woman. In 2016, the average Black woman earned about 82 percent of what the average White woman earned.”

The problems of discrimination don’t stop with the wage gap. A joint study done by Northwestern University, Harvard University and the Oslo Institute for Social Research investigated change over time in the level of hiring discrimination in U.S. labor markets.

Their study assessed trends in hiring discrimination against Blacks and Latinos over time by analyzing callback rates from all available field experiments of hiring, “capitalizing on the direct measure of discrimination and strong causal validity of these studies.”

“We observe no change in the level of hiring discrimination against African Americans over the last 25 years,” wrote a research team led by Northwestern University sociologist Lincoln Quillian. “Since 1989, Whites receive on average 36 percent more callbacks (invitations to come in for an interview) than African Americans, and 24 percent more callbacks than Latinos.”

The study concluded a striking persistence of racial discrimination exists in U.S. labor markets.