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Systemic Issues African Americans Face

Garrett Clinton and Jimmie Johnson

The discussion of race and economics is deeply rooted in pre-established systematic flaws. These flaws, whether financial or social, trace back to the origin of America. However, does an American economy truly stand as a discriminatory institution of democracy? Historically, both the unemployment rates of those of labor force respondents who classify themselves as white always rank lower while their wage rates always ranks considerably higher than those of the African-American race.

(African American)


Although unemployment rates follow a similar trend, it is essential to note the severity of the rates (identified on the y axis above). It is extremely hard to simply believe African-American's are always below the unemployment rate of Caucasians strictly based off of coincidence. What are the factors that keep both the trend and the differences consistent? This question must be answered to determine if the labor force is either prejudice or flawed.

(African American)


Looking at the wage gap between African Americans and Caucasians we can see that Caucasians consistently make more than African-Americans. Looking at the current FRED graphs for wages among African Americans and Caucasians, we can see that the wages, albeit African American’s still make less, followed the same trajectory. However, from 2016-2017 Caucasians median usual weekly real earnings increased from $359 to $363, while African Americans decreased from $282 to $278. Not only were African- American wages already lower, the gap just got bigger.

One may look to education to explain why the wage gap is larger. It is true that a higher percentage of Caucasians have a college degree than African Americans. According to a 2015 report by the census bureau, 32.8% of Caucasians had a Bachelor’s degree or higher while only 22.5% of African Americans did. However, the problem isn’t when people have an educational gap, but when there is a discrepancy in pay among people with equivalent educations. In a 2016 article by Valerie Wilson of the Economic Policy Institute she presents data that shows that African Americans are paid less that Caucasians regardless of if they have similar educations. For people with only a high school diploma, Caucasians are paid approximately $3.76 more than African-Americans. Even worse, for people with a bachelor’s degree, Caucasians are paid approximately $6.06 more than African-Americans.

While many factors, such as experience and age, play into why someone gets paid a particular wage, this data is still startling, especially as someone who will be joining the workforce soon. Throughout our lives we haven’t experienced much racial injustice, but this data illustrates to us that we need to start preparing for the harsh realities of the world.

Note that you can add a second line to a FRED graph under Edit Graph ==> Add Line. It's a little klutzy but here's the top two graphs put into one....the prof

17 thoughts on “Systemic Issues African Americans Face

  1. radcliffec20

    I think this post does a great job in addressing the prevalence of racially-based structural inequalities in the modern economy. It is especially important to point out these clear differences in a time when we are constantly told that we eradicated racism when, obviously, our society still operates according to "pre-established systematic flaws" despite our supposedly race-neutral free market structure.

    1. the prof

      Any of you can edit a post to correct an error wording. I've done so in response to a comment by Charlie, while editing out that part of her comment. But thanks, Charlie (as per the thanks by the post's authors, which I also deleted).

  2. Katie Paton

    This post reminded my of the systemic issues of race discussed in my sociology class. One reading that we looked at stated that a white man with a criminal record was more likely to be hired than a African American without a record. There is obviously a huge issue with that fact as one should be hired due to merit not based on their race. I do not understand how it is possibly for their to sill be a wage gap in todays day and age.

    1. clintong20

      Interesting! Although it is hard to believe, a wage gap today is a large oppressor of African-American's.

  3. Lauren Fredericks

    This is a very insightful post that highlights the continued discrepancies of pay in the modern world. I appreciate that you addressed the question of education and demonstrated it's contribution but not its entire contribution to the discrepancy, as that was one of my questions.

    My other question is: when you say:

    "For people with only a high school diploma, Caucasians are paid approximately $3.76 more than African-Americans. Even worse, for people with a bachelor’s degree, Caucasians are paid approximately $6.06 more than African-Americans"

    is this per week, month, year?

  4. spencerc20

    This post does a great job of calling attention to an issue that it seems is sometimes ignored when looking at the economy. I think it is something that people try to explain away through other reasoning, but when the data is put this way they cannot ignore it which is a great way of highlighting the issue itself.

    1. clintong20

      I agree. It follows the concept of factual action. Words can only have half as much impact as as direct action backed by data.

  5. longa20

    Interesting post, as I have not thought much of the systematic injustices of pay gap and unemployment between races despite similar education. It may be interesting to look at the gaps between races in certain locations, such as the same large city or state.

    1. alisonw20

      I agree. This is a very interesting post. I think that the gap maybe larger in some areas of the countries than others. If so, it would be intriguing to see where the gaps are larger and where they are smaller.

  6. trammellc20

    I thought this post was intriguing because it highlights a problem that has existed in our country for decades. The data shows that this is still a serious issue, especially because of the way that education does not bridge the gap. This shows that companies do have a bias and need to work on it.

  7. warej20

    This post did a great job of highlighting the innate racial issues within our current economy. It is unsettling to observe such differences between African Americans and whites. The strongest point was when you provided the information on how with equal education levels, African Americans still were paid less. The truly makes me question whether the U.S is a merit based society. I hope in the future we can address this issue and achieve much greater equality.

  8. bearupk20

    This post is very interesting and highlights an important and pressing issue which is facing our society today. When people hear "wage gap" they think of the difference between salaries of men and salaries of women, not between the salaries of different races. This is obviously an issue that needs to be addressed in the current labor force. It would be interesting to gather more information about different groups of both African Americans and Caucasians such as employer, position, time at the company, etc. to perhaps clarify where the discrepancies in wage gaps lie.

  9. hallk20

    This post is extremely well written and interesting. I agree with the comment above, but would add that it would be really interesting to look at specifically some of the largest corporations in America to see if these companies were different or had the same problem as this data suggests. It would be interesting to look at sub groups as well, with white men and women and african american men and women. Great research and insight!

  10. wickhamj20

    This is a phenomenal article. I think it articulates the problem of income inequality very clearly and uses great data to support your point. I think it is very obvious that there is inequality in the economic system. You also do a great job digging deeper and providing not only reasons why there is inequality but showing there is a systematic problem. What struck me most was the inequality between different races with the same educational background.

  11. Chris Surran

    This post was especially enlightening. Your point was made incredibly clear when you put both lines on the same graph. I also agree with Aidan in that I believe it would be interesting to break this data out by location.

  12. myerse20

    Last night for homework in my business and organizational behavior class, we were assigned to read an article about racial bias. The article focuses on workplace bias against African Americans and strongly correlates to the data you shared. I think it is very interesting that you chose to show unemployment rates and wages to analyze the economic bias against African Americans. Both graphs support the fact that there is a bias, but I am wondering what other data could be analyzed for further support (or maybe rejection??). Looking at an aspect of African Americans as consumers, rather than just wage earners could be very interesting. Do African Americans spend as much of a percentage of their income as Caucasians? Or more? Things like this would be very interesting to analyze.

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