Racial, Gender Pay Disparities Continue to Exist

April 27, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Newly released census data shows a narrow gap between education levels of different races and genders, but a pay gap that doesn't match up.

The Associated Press reports that among those 25 and older last year, 86.6% had graduated from high school, up from 85.7% the previous year – the biggest increase since 1991. The share of people with at least a bachelor’s degree from college also increased, from 28.7% to 29.4%.

Blacks overall slightly narrowed the pay gap with whites in 2007, but the pay disparity widened for blacks with college degrees. Blacks who had a four-year bachelor’s degree earned $46,502, or about 78% of the salary for comparably educated whites.

It was the biggest disparity between professional blacks and whites since the 77% rate in 2001, when the U.S. fell into a recession due to the collapse of the tech bubble and the September 11 terror attacks, the AP said. College-educated blacks earned as much as 83% of the average salary of whites in 2005.

For Hispanics, those with high school diplomas earned about 83 cents for whites’ every dollar, largely unchanged from a decade ago, but Hispanics with bachelor’s degrees had an average salary amounting to roughly 75 cents for every dollar made by whites – the lowest ratio in more than a decade – after hitting a peak of 87 cents to every dollar in 2000, according to the news report.

For the second year in a row, the number of women with bachelor’s degrees exceeded that of men, while the share of women with the degrees – 29% – was nearly equal to men. Still, women with at least a bachelor’s degree earned an average salary of about 60% the amount earned by comparably educated men.

Other findings included:

  • About 92% of white adults had at least a high school diploma, compared to 89% for Asians, 83% for blacks and 62% for Hispanics.
  • Black adults in recent years narrowed the gap with white adults in earning high school diplomas, but the gap has generally widened for college degrees. About 33% of white adults had at least a bachelor’s degree in 2008, compared to 20% for blacks and 13% for Hispanics.
  • More than half, or 53%, of Asian adults had at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • Workers with a high-school degree earned an average of $31,286 in 2007, while those with a bachelor’s degree earned an average of $57,181.
  • Foreign-born U.S. residents, which include illegal immigrants, were three times more likely than native-born to lack a high school diploma.

The census data came from the Current Population Survey as of April 2008.