Wages: Median: In an equitable economy, all workers would earn a living wage, without systematic differences by race and gender.

Insights & Analyses

  • Median hourly wage for all Americans has declined slightly since 1990. However, median hourly wages have increased slightly for both White workers and workers of color in some Eastern states like Connecticut, District of Columbia, and Maine. 

  • The median hourly wage for White Americans is $23 per hour compared to $18 per hour for people of color. Men of all races and ethnicities have a median hourly wage of $23 while women’s median hourly wage is just $20. Latina women have the lowest median hourly wage at $15 per hour. 

  • White Americans with only high school diplomas have the same median hourly wage as people of color with some college education or an associate degree at $18 per hour. 

  • At $37 per hour, Asian or Pacific Islanders with bachelor degrees or higher education levels have the highest median hourly wage out of all racial and ethnic groups for all levels of education.

Drivers of Inequity

Since the 1980s, our national economy has become increasingly polarized between high-wage, knowledge-economy jobs and low-wage service sector jobs, while the middle-wage jobs that have typically served as stepping stones into the middle class for workers without college degrees are disappearing. High-wage workers are seeing tremendous income gains while low-wage workers' wages have stagnated or declined. Racial and gender inequity is baked into earnings disparities as well since workers of color and female workers are segregated into the lowest-paid occupations and sectors.

Strategies

Grow an equitable economy: Policies to ensure living wages for all

Strategy in Action

Nashville negotiates historic community benefits agreement. In 2018, the Nashville-based community coalition, Stand Up Nashville, negotiated a community benefits agreement (CBA) to accompany a proposed soccer stadium. The CBA contains requirements for living-wage jobs, first-source hiring, affordable housing, a childcare center, and other community benefits. Nashville Mayor David Briley supported the campaign for the CBA, penning an open letter to the city expressing his support of the stadium in large part because it would have a CBA attached. Its passage marks the first CBA in Tennessee for a major government-led project. Read more.

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