• Ann Wrixon

Fighting Racial Bias and Black Male Mentors Essential to Closing the Black-White Wage Gap



In a recently released study Harvard researchers determined that the black-white wage gap is the result of large differences in wages and employment rates between black and white men. There is no difference between black and white women. The differences in family characteristics (parental marital status, education level and wealth) and ability did not have much of an impact. Even among boys who grew up in the same neighborhoods, black boys earned substantially less as adults.

According to the study, “The few areas in which black-white gaps are relatively small tend to be low-poverty neighborhoods with low levels of racial bias among whites and high rates of father presence among blacks. . . However, fewer than 5% of black children grow up in such environments.” The researchers also found that even in high poverty neighborhoods, “we find robust evidence that greater black father presence is associated with better outcomes for black-boys (but not white boys and black girls), irrespective of their own parents’ marital status.” This indicates that black male mentors may be more important to the success of black boys than previously realized.

Racial bias is also a strong predictor of lower wages for both black boys, black girls, and, surprisingly, low-income white men. The research, “show that low-income black males are more likely to be employed and less likely to be incarcerated if they grow up in counties with less racial bias, black females also have lower incomes in places that are more racially biased against blacks. Perhaps more surprisingly, [the research] shows that low-income white males also have lower incomes if they grow up in areas with greater racial bias against blacks. One potential explanation for this association is that implicit racial bias is correlated with other forms of bias that adversely affect low-income white men.”

Finally, the researchers make some suggestions regarding how to address the black-white wage gap. “[O]ur results suggest that efforts that cut within neighborhoods and schools and improve environments for specific racial subgroups, such as black boys, may be more effective in reducing the black-white gap. Examples include mentoring programs for black boys, efforts to reduce racial bias among whites, or efforts to facilitate social interaction across racial groups within a given area.”

These results suggest that Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) programs should concentrate on recruiting black male CASA volunteers, and undertake efforts to reduce racial bias, as well as facilitating social interactions across racial groups.

The New York Times also published an excellent summary of the study.

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