America’s demographic has been skewed to the advantage of white people throughout its history. From slavery to Jim Crow laws, the systems in place has always valued the white majority. As recently as 2018, the US census has shown that white people make up around 62.4% of the United States. As a result of this, people began to believe that American society is skewed to the advantage of white people. This belief exists despite laws that are designed to help people of color succeed, like affirmative action, which forbids employers to discriminate based on ethnicity. They believe that white people are favored because they have more opportunities available to them based on their skin color. The high cost of college tuition appears to support this claim, as it disenfranchises the poorer black and latino population. Furthermore, there is still a considerable wage gap between white and black workers. With all these examples in mind, it is quite clear that, white privilege does exist in America. However, now the question is how much does this sense of white privilege disenfranchise people of color in America’s economic system.
Economic Perspective: College
It is no secret that college admission prices are crazy high in the United States. As of 2016, the average cost of a 4 year tuition at a public institution is $19,488. This high price effectively deters the poorer population from higher education and countless economic opportunities in the future because their only choices are to find a job that doesn’t require a college education, which generally don’t pay as much as jobs that do require degrees, or plunge themselves into debt for the next few years. Those options might reflect how African Americans and latinos aren’t commonly found in management positions and are more commonly found in service and office jobs. There appears to be a strong correlation between getting a bachelor’s degree and getting a professional or management job, as 30% and 20% of african Americans and latinos, respectively, have a bachelor’s degree and 30.8% of African Americans and 22.5% of latinos have a professional or management job. With white people having better paying jobs than most minorities, it makes sense why, white people generally make more money than most minorities. As of 2017, white people made around $20,000 more than hispanic people and $30,000 more than African Americans. With them making more money, it would make sense that more white people could be able to afford to get into college. Around half of the students attending ivy league schools in 2017 are white and because of that, more white people have more opportunities open for higher paying jobs, which perpetuates the cycle of minorities having service and manual jobs, and not being able to pay for higher education.
Economic Perspective: Workplace Bias
The effects of white privilege don’t just end when people graduate from university or college, it also persists into the workforce. The pay gap between people of color and white people is an example of this. There has always been a pay gap between different ethnicities, but in recent years, it seems to be closing. This is probably due to all of the recent laws to ensure equality, and the public’s more accepting mentality. However, even though it is shrinking, there is still a decent gap between all of the minorities and white people. According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2015, African Americans and Hispanics earned 73 and 69% as much money as white men do per hour. However, it should be noted that these could be a result of African Americans and Hispanics not going to college as much as white people do. However, as mentioned in the last paragraph, not as many African Americans and Hispanics go to school because they can’t afford to, and the pay gap certainly doesn’t help. Furthermore, even if they did go to college, there is still a pay gap between races. Referring back to that pew news article, “College-educated black and Hispanic men earn roughly 80% the hourly wages of white college educated men ($25 and $26 vs. $32, respectively)”. This gap might still exist because, while society is trying to change its ways, it is hard to ignore a stigma that has existed for decades. Even today, the common stereotype of an african american is the violent, brutish African-American male and the dominant, lazy African-American female. Research has by Ferris State University has shown that whites are likely to hold these stereotypes especially with respect to issues of crime and welfare. With these stereotypes in mind, it might become easier for an employer to justify the wage gap between people of color and white people. It might also kind of justify firing African Americans, as African Americans are the most likely group of people to be unemployed. Considering how strong stereotypes can beat times, they could be a factor in deciding all of these things.
Rebuttal: Asian Advantage
Asians haven’t been mentioned because they are generally the outlier. Unlike African Americans and Hispanics, Asians are the only minority that makes more money and enrolls in college at higher rates than white people. With Asians being so successful, people look to them and think that minorities aren’t disadvantaged if they could have a chance of becoming successful. However, Asians only make up 6 percent of the population, and their culture leads them to pursue high income jobs that require higher education, it leads to these skewed statistics. The statistics are even further skewed when the fact that 78% of Asian Americans are foreign born. This means that Asian Americans are typically rich expats from China or India looking for opportunities. With most of the Asian American population being rich, this leads to a huge wealth gap between the Asian American population. The top 10% of Asians are 10.7 times richer than the bottom 10% of Asians, compared to the top 10% of whites being 7.8 times richer than the bottom 10% of white people. The wealth gap between Asians is also the fastest growing wealth gap, as it has nearly doubled from 1970 to 2016. This data shows how even though Asians have higher education and a higher average income, there is a huge disparity between the rich and the poor and due to their numbers being so skewed, Asians are actually, disadvantaged.
In order to resolve the ever increasing wage gap, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker have come up with a solution. In 2018, they issued a letter to the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission, making a case for making everyone’s pay rate accessible. Warren and Brooker hope that, by disclosing everyone’s salaries, people will become more aware of the pay gaps present in society. With more awareness of the wage gap, the idea is that people would begin to pressure companies to give fairer wages. The idea of wage transparency also isn’t new. Sweden has made salaries public information since the 1800s and it has one of the lowest wage gaps in the world. Also as a bonus, its citizens also trust the government more. If America were to implement this system, we could have the same results. However, like Germany, it would take a bit of time to get to Sweden’s standards as people have to build up faith in the system and have a meaningful discourse about it. However, disclosing everyone’s wages is a good first step in closing the wage gap.