People of color are earning less in workplace compensation cases than White Americans



Throughout most of its history, the United States has been, what many people see as, a nation that has not treated its minority population very well. As a matter of fact, this trend usually is applicable to most Western nations, given that they were major participants in the slave trade and other forms of colonialism through a large portion of their histories. While slavery and legal discrimination ended in the United States roughly 50 or so years ago, this doesn’t mean that discrimination and racism have disappeared, though.

We often talk about the obvious social and political implications of discrimination, such as people being barred from voting or people being prevented from using the same bathrooms as other ethnicities. Little do we talk about the economic implications of discriminatory practices. As a matter of fact, the complicity of ignoring or downplaying the role of discrimination in the workplace and economy is dangerous for many reasons.

For one, the long-held practice of discrimination in America that is aimed at minorities and people of color has caused a change in perception. Often times, people of color have a perceived value that is lower than that of other ethnicities like Caucasians and certain Asian cross-sections of the population. As said, this is largely a result of the history of institutional discrimination that has plagued the country for hundreds of years. While one could argue that, statistically, people of color usually do not attain the same level of education as other sections of the population, we will look at examples that dispel this as the sole issue for people of color receiving less pay as a result of their educational background.

Let’s take a look at a model that was created by the Washington Post that looked at the lifetime potential earnings of African Americans versus Whites that would be lost in the event of a workplace injury. Now, this calculator is not necessarily a conventional method of measuring wealth, but it highlights some concerning problems with injuries in the workplace and potential lost earnings as a result of said injuries.

It is said that Black males with a master’s degree will earn $2.12 million dollars throughout their lifetime as opposed to White males with a bachelor’s degree who will earn $2.28 million dollars. As previously mentioned, this is in the context of both parties being injured in the workplace in the context that both were provided workplace compensation. First of all, this is very problematic for a variety of reasons, one of them being that you have African American males earning less than White Americans despite them attaining a higher level of education.

By following this link, you can even make your own comparative analyses between all types of genders and ethnicities in terms of their potential life earnings. The results are quite disturbing in the sense that the disparities and gap in income between different ethnicities and genders are significant all around. Herein lies two problems.

First of all, between males of color and White males, there is a huge income gap that is unjustified for a multitude of reasons. Let’s look at the amount of compensation that is awarded to both parties in the event that they win a lawsuit.

In terms of Hispanic males with a high school diploma, they earn $912K as opposed to White males with the same level of education who earn $1.21M. With a bachelor’s degree, the income disparity is even larger with Hispanic males earning $1.74M and White males earning $2.28M on the other hand. Even with a master’s degree, the gap is significant at $474K.

With African American males who obtained just a high school diploma, their future lost income would be at $925K while White males would earn around $1.21M. Under the pretext that both have a bachelor’s degree, Black males earn $1.72M while White males earn $2.28M. With master’s degrees, the difference is at $631K.

So, what can be said about these numbers? Why are they significant in the first place? For one, this reinforces the notion that males of color are considered less valuable than males who are White. This proves, on many levels, that institutional discrimination still exists and negatively impacts the lives of people of color in this country. Despite having the same level of education, these two groups of individuals are not seen as equals in the criminal justice system.

As I mentioned previously, while the legalization of discrimination and racism has been eradicated in the last 50 years, there are still lingering vestiges of discrimination active in the workplace.

Let’s shift from talking about males of color to women of color. This is where the problem becomes even more magnified, proving that gender discrimination is just as large of an issue as it has been in the past and that it has not been eradicated. We will first start by comparing African American women with White males.

Compared to White males who have earned just a high school diploma, Black females who have a high school diploma earn less than $571K in workplace compensations. What is even more disturbing is that Black females who have obtained a bachelor’s degree earn, on average, $1.04M less. The gap further widens with the assumption that both sides are recipients of master’s degrees.

Lastly, we will analyze the difference between Hispanic females and White males. The difference in lost income is very similar to the comparison between Black females and White males. Hispanic females earn less than $592K with high school diplomas, $962K with bachelor’s degrees, and $1.02M with master’s degrees.

Similar to the way that men of color are discriminated against in the justice system when it comes to work-compensation, women of color are discriminated at an even higher level. We should make note that even White women are discriminated and disadvantaged in certain areas of society, however, at the same time we must realize that this goes deeper than that. This proves that it is something about people of color that creates this unfavorable dynamic in their name that both prevents them from obtaining an equal footing on society actively and passively.  

What we need to be asking ourselves is, why are two individuals who have the same level of education earning a disproportional amount of money over their lifetimes? What is it about a male that makes him more deserving of a higher income? What is it about a person’s ethnicity that makes them less worthy of earning the same amount of money as more privileged ethnicities?

Until these questions are addressed in a serious manner and taken to the public sphere, it is likely that they will remain persistent issues in regards to race relations in the country. By leaving these problems unchecked and implanted into different societal institutions it is unlikely that there will be any appreciable change to the unity of this country despite slavery and discrimination being condemned.