The wage gap has narrowed for women over the past 20 years — but for others it’s only gotten worse

Many women are better off financially in 2018 than they were in 2000, but that isn’t the case for all Americans.
The wage gap has been narrowing for women, but it varies widely by race, class, and education level, a new analysis from the Economic Policy Institute, a non-profit think tank in Washington, D.C. found.
In 2018, the average working woman was paid 84 cents on dollar compared to men, an increase from 73 cents in 2000. But while gender parity in pay has improved, black workers have seen the wage gap increase: black workers are now paid 16.2% less than their white counterparts, an increase from 10.2% in 2000.
‘Rising wage inequality and sluggish hourly wage growth for the vast majority of workers have been defining features of the American labor market.’
“Rising wage inequality and sluggish hourly wage growth for the vast majority of workers have been defining features of the American labor market for nearly four decades,” said Elise Gould, study author and senior EPI economist.
Some gains were made from 2017 to 2018 in the 20th and 30th percentiles of U.S. earners at 4.8% and 3.7% respectively and median wages grew 1.6% in that year. Wage growth was strongest for the highest-wage workers over the same period.
The top 10% of earners saw the strongest wage growth from 2000 to 2018, the research showed, “continuing the trend in rising wage inequality over the last four decades,” Gould said.
“Most workers are experiencing moderate wage growth and even workers who have seen more significant gains are just making up ground lost during the Great Recession and slow recovery rather than getting ahead,” she said.
‘At nearly every education level, workers of color were paid consistently less than their white counterparts.’
Black workers were hit especially hard by the Great Recession and never fully recovered, an October 2018 study from researchers at New York University showed. Homeownership among black Americans fell from 47.7% in 2010 to 44% in 2013 and 43% in 2017 at a 30-year low. Wages for some black workers have also fallen.
Only black workers who had college and advanced degrees saw wage increases from 2000 to 2018, the study showed, and even those who did saw slower wage growth than what white or Hispanic workers with those same degrees saw, the study showed.
The number of black Americans graduating with college degrees hit an all-time high in 2018, but economic outcomes did not reflect that, a previous EPI study showed. From 2017 to 2018 across all ethnic groups, people with advanced degree saw the most wage growth. Meanwhile, wages fell most for black workers with less than a high school diploma.
“At nearly every education level, workers of color were paid consistently less than their white counterparts,” the study said.
‘Wage growth remains weaker than we should expect in a fully healthy economy.’
The study underscores how many Americans have been slow to feel benefits of economic growth and decreasing unemployment in recent years. As cost of living increases, wage growth has struggled to keep up.
Although some economists have cited record unemployment as a sign that the U.S. is approaching full employment, the EPI study said these numbers show this isn’t the case.
“Wage growth remains weaker than we should expect in a fully healthy economy,” Gould said.
The EPI numbers come as middle class Americans continue to struggle, separate studies show. One in three Americans who have “moderate income” jobs still struggles to make ends meet, a study released in February from Washington, D.C. think tank the Urban Institute said.
“The economy is improving for a lot of people and the unemployment rate is going down,” Steven Brown, a research associate at the Urban Institute said. “But income alone isn’t a good measure of health.”