Black workers in the United States continue to earn less than their white counterparts even as American companies are raising diversity and inclusion as a cornerstone of their brands and business strategies, according to a recently published report.
The Conference Board report attributed the wage gaps to a range of factors, including geographical segregation and labor market segmentation, as well as different access to educational opportunities, social and professional networks.
“As Americans mark Juneteenth, business leaders and policymakers alike must recognize the recent trends in racial disparities in the 21st century economy,” said Gad Levanon, labor markets vice president at The Conference Board in Washington. “Reversing these trends will require addressing deeply rooted labor market segmentation and geographical segregation in restricting access to high-growth fields.”
Juneteenth is a holiday celebrated on June 19 commemorating the end of the legal enslavement of Black Americans. On Thursday, it became the 11th federally recognized holiday.
According to The Conference Board, Black men with a bachelor’s degree or higher earned 18% less than white men in 2010. By 2019, that gap had widened to 24%, driven by what the think tank said was the striking underrepresentation of Black workers in high-paying industries and occupations.
It singled out the technology industry, which it said experienced a surge in high earners in recent years, yet Blacks accounted for only 4% of top earners, compared to 6% in other industries. The Conference Board also noted that Black workers were similarly underrepresented in other booming fields for top earners, accounting for just 2.8% of top-earning CEOs and 3.8% of top earners in marketing management.
Some industries and jobs with a large concentration of Black workers among top earners were shrinking, it said. The think tank also noted that Blacks with a bachelor’s degree were much more likely to work in jobs that do not require a college degree, such as drivers and security guards.
The Conference Board suggested that embracing remote work could bolster diversity post-pandemic by opening positions to qualified Black talent unable or reluctant to relocate to tech hubs in the West Coast.