The Racial Wealth Divide and Comparative Wealth
The Racial Wealth Divide & Comparative Wealth
By Vickie M Fouts, WILPF Building the Beloved Community Chair
The gender wage gap is well documented in mainstream media. On February 28, the NY Times published an article “Why Is Her Paycheck Smaller?” which states:
"There's no measurable way to explain the gaps within occupations," said Barry T. Hirsh, a labor economist at Georgia State University. "Other wage gaps, like racial gaps, can be almost fully explained by factoring in the differences in education, geography and age."
It’s a shame that the ranking of disparity continues and even worse that the racial wealth divide could be so easily dismissed by a labor economist.
It is true that women are discriminated against by what is referred to as a lack of comparable worth. Women today make only about $.66 for every dollar a man makes and a woman of color makes even less. The U.S. has a history of women in traditional “women” jobs making less than men in traditional “men” jobs. This topic is explained in detail by Claire Andre and Manuel Velasquez in their article, “Comparable Worth”:
The supporters of comparable worth point to the relatively depressed wages of those in largely female professions, such as health care, child care, and elementary education, compared to the wages of those, such as truck drivers, parking lot attendants, and vocational educators, in mostly male professions. In virtually every case, they claim, jobs that demand comparable skill, education, risk, and responsibility receive vastly different salaries, depending entirely on whether the jobs are filled mostly by men or by women.
Nevertheless, we cannot forget that comparative worth is compounded by the racial wealth divide. This is why our sisters of color are harder hit by the current economic crisis and on the whole have always been at the bottom when it comes to economics. They are doubly harmed by their color and their gender.
United for a Fair Economy has a section on their website about the racial wealth divide in our country. Meizhu Lui, Barbara Robles, and Betsy Leondar-Wright expound on this topic in their book The Color of Wealth: The Story Behind the U.S. Racial Wealth Divide. They state: “For every dollar owned by the average white family in the United States, the average family of color has less than a dime.” Why do people of color have so little wealth? Because for centuries they were barred by law, by discrimination, and by violence from participating in government wealth-building programs that benefited white Americans. Understanding the roots of the racial wealth divide will lead to more understanding of racial inequities in general and more understanding of how to reach equality.
For Women’s Herstory Month, I call for us to do all we can to make sure our sisters of color are paid comparable worth and given the opportunity to gain equal wealth to men and to whites.