Wage inequality in the United States - Statistics & Facts

Gender and racial wage gaps in the United States remain, even as they have narrowed in some cases over the years. The female to male earnings ratio in 1990 was 71.6 percent, indicating that a regular female worker earned about 72 percent of the amount a male employee in the same position did. In 2015, this ratio was at 79.6 percent, showing a trend towards closing the wage gap between males and females. Looking at gender and ethnicity combined, all groups, with the exception of Asian men, lagged behind white men in terms of median hourly earnings. For example, in the U.S., the median weekly earnings of an Asian male wage worker were 1,129 U.S. dollars in 2015, while Hispanic or Latino women had the lowest median weekly pay, at 566 U.S. dollars.

A college education is often seen as the equalizer when it comes to the gender and racial wage gap; however, the earning potential in various majors differs. In 2013, the most popular degrees with the highest earning potential were architecture and engineering with a median annual income of 83 thousand U.S. dollars. A major in elementary education had much lower earning potential with an expected annual income of 45 thousand U.S. dollars.

Another factor determining income is region, and the distribution of income within it. In 2015, the District of Columbia had the highest average wage in private industry at over 81 thousand U.S. dollars, and it had the highest inequality in income distribution with a Gini coefficient score of 0.54. The Gini coefficient is a statistical measure of inequality with zero representing perfect equality and 100 representing perfect inequality. On the opposite side, Hawaii with score of 0.43, was ranked as the most equal state. There is a general trend in the U.S. of increasing inequality between the poor and the wealthy. In the time period from 1990 to 2015, the Gini coefficient for household income has increased by 0.5 points.

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