Free Interactive Report
Reduced Inequalities in the US
By 2030, SDG 10, Reduced Inequalities, aims to reduce inequality within and among countries. This includes reducing income inequality and promoting universal social, political, and economic inclusion. It also means adopting legislation and policies that protect people from discrimination and ensuring equal opportunity for things like housing and employment.
Inequality in the US in Context
Inequality takes many forms, from lack of education and work opportunities, to unequal personal wealth and pay gaps, and challenges accessing medical or other social services. Older workers, migrants and refugees, women, minorities and people with disabilities are particularly impacted by these inequalities:
- 2 in 10 people around the world have personally experienced discrimination, increasing to 3 in 10 among people with disabilities - which is especially important considering 1 in 10 children have a disability today.
- The richest 1% of the world have accumulated 2x as much wealth as 90% of the global population (roughly 6.9 billion people).
- A woman still makes just 82 cents for every dollar earned by a man, and black households earn just 61 cents for every dollar earned by a white household.
- 1 in 4 LQBTQ people report experiencing discrimination
- Over 50% of older US workers are pushed out of longtime jobs before retirement
In 2020 67,448 employment-related discrimination charges were filed by US workers and jobseekers related to retaliation, disability, race, age, and more.
Inequality in the US is often interlinked with discrimination and lack of social, political, and economic inclusion based on personal characteristics, and has far reaching consequences for a person's financial and personal wellbeing.
Inequalities in the distribution of wealth and income are both persistent challenges in the US. We have the highest level of income inequality of countries with similar economies. Research by Forbes found that US billionaires have gotten about $1.2 trillion richer during the pandemic and the Economic Policy Institute found that CEOs now earn 320x what a typical worker makes.
what a typical worker makes
Over the past 50 years the top 1% of American earners have nearly doubled their share of national income. They now hold almost 25%. Investment profits make up the majority of their income, while for the other 99% of people, the vast majority of their income comes from wages and salaries, subject to more oversight and taxes. While many states have increased their minimum wages, the Federal minimum wage in the US hasn't been raised since 2009.
The relationships between race, ethnicity, gender, and inequality are well documented. While men and women make up almost equal shares of the US labor force (53% and 47% respectively), 63% of workers earning the federal minimum wage ($7.25) are women. Additionally, of the CEOs running Fortune 500 companies, only 8% are women and only 1% are black. In 2019, Black households earned just 61 cents for every dollar earned by a white household, while Hispanic households earned 74 cents. While the median income for Asian Americans is 38% greater than the national median income, income inequality is also greatest among these households.
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's
- sex (including pregnancy, transgender status, & sexual orientation)
- national origin
- age (for people over 40)
- genetic information
Unfair treatment, harassment, denial of a reasonable workplace change (for religious beliefs or disability), improper questions about or disclosure of genetic information or medical information, and retaliation as a result of filing a complaint are all covered by EOC enforcement. In 2020 67,448 equal employment opportunity charges (EEOC) were filed with the Commission.
- 56% were related to retaliation
- 36% were related to disability
- 33% were related to race
- 32% were related to sex
- 21% were related to age
A main problem with workplace discrimination in the US is that it often manifests in subtle ways, such as the assignments workers are given, the pay or benefits they receive, or even their interview experience, rather than through racial slurs or physical threats. Laws also place the responsibility on the employee to prove discriminatory intent.
Black workers are disproportionately impacted. The Center for Public Integrity found that while they make up 13% percent of the US workforce, racial discrimination against this group accounts for over 1/4 of all claims filed.
Discrimination also extends beyond the workplace. While there are many laws and policies in place to protect people from discrimination based on gender, race, or age, a vast majority of federal protections, contrary to public belief, are unavailable to LGBTQ people.
Prohibiting transgender people from serving in the military and accessing the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, denying married same-sex couples access to partner health care benefits, and unequal access to housing are just some of the ways LQBTQ people continue to face discrimination in their daily lives.
In 21 states and the District of Columbia, state law protects people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations.
Explore More Using Our Interactive Report
This interactive report is continuously updated and it is free thanks to X4Impact Founding Partners. The report highlights some selected inequality indicators.
You can view anti discrimination laws, trends on equal employment opportunity complaints, and income inequality statistics nationally, or by state. You can also understand the flow of money to fund nonprofits working on reduced inequalities, as well as exploring by state the list of nonprofits that work on this issue.
Income inequality (poverty disparity by group)
The Negative Effects of Inequality
The intolerance and discrimination that drives inequality not only impacts the individuals experiencing these challenges and prevents them from reaching their full potential, but also negatively impacts society as a whole.
As a result of inequalities in wealth and income, economic mobility is shrinking in the US. 90% of Americans born in the 1940s earn more than their parents compared to just 50% of those born in the 1980s. Income has far reaching consequences for a person's well being and decision making around housing, healthcare, food security, and more.
Discrimination based on any personal characteristics (such as age, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender, sexual orientation) creates less diverse and inclusive communities and workplaces. It can lead to lower education levels and higher unemployment and poverty rates, which in turn impact food security, and physical and mental health.
The Economic Impact of Inequality
- The racial wealth gap is estimated to cost the US economy between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion between 2019 and 2028.
- A study by Rand estimates that between 1975 to 2018, the bottom 90% of earners lost out on $47 trillion in taxable income.
- The Economic Policy Institute estimates that rising inequality has slowed growth in aggregate demand (spending by households, business, and governments) by 2 - 4% of GDP each year, which will lead to slower economic growth overall for the nation.
- A study by Citigroup estimates racial discrimination has cost the US $16 trillion in lost GDP, as a result of discrimination in higher education access, housing credits, wages, and entreprenuership.
Key Indicators of Success Defined by the United Nations for UN SDG 10
The United Nations has defined 10 Targets and 11 Indicators to track progress towards reaching the Sustainable Development Goal of Reduced Inequalities by 2030, including:
- Growing the income of the bottom 40% of the population
- Promoting the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status
- Reducing the number of people reporting feeling discriminated against or harassed in the previous 12 months on the basis of a ground of discrimination prohibited under international human rights law
- Adopting policies, especially fiscal, wage and social protection policies that will aid in achieving greater equality
* Public Accommodations are government and private entities that offer goods and services to the general public such as courthouses, libraries, post offices, restaurants, hotels, and theaters.
** These states investigate discrimination complaints based on the Bostock Rationale (from the Supreme Court Case Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia) that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination are prohibited under federal sex-based employment protections.
*** The EEOC (US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, transgender status, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.
Interactive Chart Sources:
- State Public Accommodation Non-Discrimination Laws: X4Impact analysis of Human Rights Campaign State Equality Index 2020.
- Percent of People Living Below the Poverty Line: X4Impact analysis of US Census and US Department of Commerce Business Formation Statistics 2004-2020.
- Equal Employment Opportunity Charges (Violations): X4Impact analysis of US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 2009 – 2020 and Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020.
- Nonprofit-related data: X4Impact analysis of over 600,000 forms 990 filed with the Internal Revenue Service -IRS 2018-2020
- ProPublica and the Urban Institute – If You’re Over 50, Chances Are the Decision to Leave a Job Won’t be Yours
- New York Times – New Evidence of Age Bias in Hiring, and a Push to Fight It
- Forbes – How Much Money America’s Billionaires Have Made During The Covid-19 Pandemic
- Council on Foreign Relations – The US Inequality Debate
- Economic Policy Institute – CEO compensation surged 14% in 2019 to $21.3 million
- Economic Policy Institute – Racial disparities in income and poverty remain largely unchanged amid strong income growth in 2019
- Pew Research – Income Inequality in the US Is Rising Most Rapidly Among Asians
- Vox – Center for Public Integrity Workplace Discrimination
- GLAAD – Most Americans believe LGBTQ people are legally protected from discrimination. They're not.
- McKinsey – The economic impact of closing the racial wealth gap
- CBS – Rand Cost of Inequality Report
- Economic Policy Institute – Inequality is Slowing US Economic Growth
- Freedom for All Americans – LGBTQ Americans Aren’t Fully Protected From Discrimination in 29 States
- SDG Tracker – SDG 10
- NPR – Citigroup Cost of Racism
- Philanthropy News Digest – World's Richest 1 Percent Own Twice as Much as Bottom 90 Percent
- Center for American Progress – Widespread LGBT Discrimination