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The Racial Wage Gap Has Not Changed in 35 Years

2 minute read
Kirsten Salyer is a writer and the former Deputy Editor of TIME Ideas

In the past 35 years, the gap between the wages of black and Hispanic American workers and those of white ones has not significantly changed, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Black men earned 73% of white men’s hourly earnings in 2015 — the exact percentage they earned in 1980. Pay disparity for Hispanic men has gotten worse: they earned 69% of white men’s hourly earnings in 2015, down from 71% in 1980. The only people out-earning white men are Asian men, who earned 117% as much as white men in 2015.

In terms of hourly wages, that comes out to $14 for Hispanic men, $15 for black men, $21 for white men and $24 for Asian men in 2015.

White men also continue to out-earn all women, and in 2015, Hispanic women earned the lowest average hourly wages at $12, compared to $13 for black women, $17 for white women and $18 for Asian women.

Read: Women Are Closing the Wage Gap. Ever. So. Slowly.

Since 1980, the pay gap between white women and white men has narrowed by 22 cents, from 60 cents to every dollar white men earned to 82 cents in 2015. By comparison, the pay gap between black women and white men narrowed by only 9 cents — from 56 cents to every dollar white men earned in 1980 to 65 cents in 2015. Hispanic women made just 58 cents for ever dollar white men made in 2015, a 5-cent increase.

What explains these persistent discrepancies?

As Pew points out, some of the racial wage gap can be explained by the fact that lower shares of blacks and Hispanics have college educations, which means statistically lower wages. Yet even among those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, disparity is clear. College-educated black and Hispanic men earn about 80% of the hourly wages of college-educated white men, and college-educated black and Hispanic women earn only about 70% of the hourly wages of college-educated white men.

Unfair hiring practices may play a role, Pew points out; according to Pew’s own recently released research, about 21% of black adults and 16% of Hispanics say that their race or ethnicity has caused them to be treated unfairly in hiring, pay or promotion in the past year, compared to 4% of whites. And about 40% of blacks and 20% of Hispanics say their race or ethnicity has made it harder for them to succeed in life, compared to 5% of whites.

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