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Study Finds Continuing Race Disparity in Wages

May 07, 2003|Joy L. Woodson | Times Staff Writer

Latino and African American workers earn lower hourly wages than whites in California, according to a study released today by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The report by the private nonprofit group also concluded that the wage gap between blacks and whites grew over the last decade despite improvements in the education and job status of African Americans.

In releasing its findings, the institute, which does research on economic, social and political issues, suggested that the gap could be narrowed if the state increased funding for early childhood development, public schools in low-income neighborhoods and workforce development for lower-skilled workers.

"Improving educational opportunities will reduce racial and ethnic wage gaps in the long run but is unlikely to resolve the problem entirely, especially for African Americans," said Deborah Reed, the San Francisco-based institute's population program director who coauthored the study.

Overall, the study found that the average Latino worker earned 60 cents per dollar earned by white workers -- a difference attributed to the recent influx of Latino immigrants with fewer skills.

Between 1979-2000, there was little change in the wage differences between U.S.-born Latinos and whites in California. Latino men earned 81 cents to 83 cents for every dollar earned by white men. Latino women earned 79 cents to 85 cents for every dollar earned by white women.

For African Americans the relative wages actually dropped from 81 cents to 74 cents for men and 96 cents to 86 cents for women over the past decade.

The study found that among U.S.-born full-time workers in California, the median hourly wage in 2000 for white men was $20.83, for Latinos $16.96 and for African American men $15.41.

Researchers said substantial wage gaps are likely to persist.

"Given California's current economic climate and the fact that we've seen no improvement in Latino and African American wage gaps in 20 years, the prospects for substantial progress in the near term are bleak," Reed said.

The report, "Racial and Ethnic Wage Gaps in the California Labor Market," found that if Latinos worked in the same occupations as whites, the wage gap would be eliminated.

However, for African Americans, having the same jobs would not decrease the wage disparity. Also, their relative wages would increase only slightly with the same education as whites, according to the report.

The study also found that the wage gap between whites and Asians has been steady since the 1970s. However, in this case, Asians earn more. Asian men earn $1.04 for every dollar earned by white men. Asian women earned a relative wage of $1.15.

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