The Education-Income Disparity

Attention D.C.-Area Readers

Economic Policy Institute Forum
Reversing the Decline in Good Jobs

Thursday, November 12, 2009
9:00 am to 12:30 am

New research by the Economic Policy Institute documents a three-decades long decline in jobs that pay decent wages and provide benefits. In addition to this steady loss of good paying jobs, reports of wage theft, unsafe workplaces and other labor law violations are rampant. While these are problems for all American workers, not surprisingly, some groups are being hurt more than others. There is significant variation by gender, race and ethnicity in access to the shrinking number of good, safe jobs.

Please join the Economic Policy Institute for presentations on the decline in the quality of American jobs and on policy reforms needed to put America back on a path to creating good jobs.

[RSVP below.]

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. Coffee and continental breakfast will be provided.

Gustavo Andrade, CASA de Maryland, Inc.
Gail C. Arnall, Offender Aid and Restoration
Algernon Austin, Economic Policy Institute
Judy Conti, National Employment Law Project
Philip Mattera, Good Jobs First
Catherine Singley, National Council of La Raza

Economic Policy Institute, 1333 H Street NW, Suite 300 East Tower, Washington DC
(Near McPherson Square Metro (Orange/Blue lines) and Metro Center (Red line))

Space is limited, please RSVP here to attend this event.

Anyone who seriously looks at the data will see that blacks value education more than whites. The question then is why.

My hypothesis is that it simply makes economic sense. Blacks need to be better educated than whites to do as well financially. As the figure below shows, in 2008, the median income for white males with an associate's degree was $52,193. The median for black males with a bachelor's degree was $51,570, slightly lower than the amount for white males with an associate's degree.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2009

The pattern is even more dramatic for black males with master's degrees. Their median income is $67,479, $4,193 less than the median for white males with a bachelor's degree. For a black male to earn about the same as a given white male, more often than not, he has to be better educated than the white male.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2009

The pattern is weaker among women, but it is still the case that white women earn more than black women at a given education level. The median income for white women with a bachelor's degrees is $50,102. It is $46,209 for black women, $3,893 less than the white median. It is also worth noting that at every education level, women earn less than men.

To have an equal likelihood of being employed, blacks have to be better educated than whites. If employed, to have an equal likelihood of earning as much as a given white person, blacks have to be better educated than that white person. In other words, economic success is more dependent on a high level of education for blacks than for whites, therefore it makes sense for blacks to value education more than whites.

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--Algernon Austin, Ph.D.

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