Closing Pay Gap Between Black and White Workers Key to Fixing Structural Racism

Data shows Black families in North Carolina bring home an average of $20,000 less than their White counterparts. Furthermore, studies show since the year 2000, the pay gap between Black and White workers has increased.


What You Need To Know

  • BLS data reports Black American workers to make an average of nearly 15 percent less than the white workers in the same job

  • Their role, education, and experience are the three main forces of predicting an employee's salary

  • By the time children born in Mecklenburg County are in their 30's, they're only earning $.46 for every dollar their white counterparts earn



After accounting for education level, gender, sex, and their region of residence, the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports Black American workers to make an average of nearly 15 percent less than the White workers in the same job.

Alicia Hylton-Daniel says she is one of very few that look like her with a background in the design-build industry.

“What kind of had me going out on my own was being bold enough to be a Black woman and get my general contractor license,” Hylton-Daniel says.

Prior to that, she had worked for seven years as a paralegal in the corporate world.
“I got excellent reviews,” she says. “I got along well with clients, staff, everyone, but I was never given a raise,” she says.
The experience was confusing, humiliating, and dehumanizing. “The White, male designers or White, women designers that I've worked with or that are in the industry, they were making a lot more than I and some of them with less experience,” Hylton-Daniel adds.

One positive in her situation is that she's married.
“I am, financially, not as bad off as perhaps a single, Black woman, but at the same time, I'm not being paid for my worth,” she says. “I'm not being paid for the work and the value that I'm bringing to that company.”

But she says she felt more comfortable swallowing pride she felt she earned.
“It's systemic racism where you're not aware of it, right,” Hylton-Daniel ponders. “You just know that because I look the way I look, I shouldn't get the salary that a White male or White woman should get.”

The pay gap has been a long-standing barrier to equality for decades in America. And, while there were upward trends after the 2008 Great Recession, outcomes were mixed based on what you look like.
“There has been a growth in wages overall and if we look specifically at the pay gap, since 2000 the data suggest that, regardless of how we cut it, whatever income percentile you're at, that pay gap has actually widened,” says Kevin Loux. He runs labor market intelligence with Charlotte Works.

To understand why it's important to know the equation employers use to determine a person's salary.
“The role you're in, and then your education, and experience are the three main forces of predicting your salary,” Loux explains.

Many times the obstacles to Black workers getting paid what they've truly earned are completely out of their control.
“A Harvard study found that Black candidates who 'whiten' their resume get more interviews, and another study also found that hiring bias against Black candidates hasn't improved in 25 years,” Loux says.

He added that by the time children born in Mecklenburg County, for instance, are in their 30's they're only earning $.46 for every dollar their white counterparts earn.
“Black individuals are starting behind their White counterparts and that outcome gap only widens over the course of their life,” he says.

Getting the right credentials, Loux says, oftentimes doesn't help to close the gap.
“We see Black students have less access to higher education and they're more likely to come out with debt than their White counterparts,” he explains.
Due to systemic inequity and structural racism, Loux says Black workers can expect to make significantly less in the career world.
“We have survey data that suggests that those workers earn only $.87 for every dollar earned by their White counterpart, in the same role," Loux says. And even with advanced degrees or decades of experience, “the Black worker is still only earning $.98  for every dollar earned by their White counterpart,” Loux added.

Closing the gap, he says, requires employers to take initiative and action. “We're going through some intentional efforts with those employers that are willing to talk about removing unnecessary barriers to hiring,” Loux says.

Hylton-Daniel says a lot of the times those barriers are superficial bias that has nothing to do with a person's expertise.
“I get higher pricing on tile install and things like that just because I am a Black woman, or a Black person, so that's the reality,” she says.
It's a reality that the country is facing as we speak.
“Knowing that there are other people out there, other Black women out there, that are experiencing what you are because we weren't talking about it,” Hylton-Daniel says. “It's taken this long for the realization to happen.”