Reducing Inequalities in the U.S.
Inequality in the U.S. 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.
At A Glance:
During the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, U.S. billionaires have gotten about $1.2 trillion richer during the pandemic while millions of others lost jobs and faced challenges paying for rent, groceries, and other basic needs (Forbes).
A woman still makes just 81 cents for every dollar earned by a man, and black household earned just 61 cents for every dollar earned by a white household (Economic Policy Institute).
While marriage equality has been enforced by Federal law since 2015, many other non-discrimination Federal and state policies do not protect LQBTQ people (GLAAD).
Over 50% of older U.S. workers are pushed out of longtime jobs before retirement (ProPublica and Urban Institute)
In 2020 67,448 employment-related discrimination charges were filed by US workers and jobseekers.
Inequalities in the distribution of wealth and income are both persistent challenges in the U.S..
Research by Forbes found that U.S. 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.
Over the past 50 years the top 1% of American earners have nearly doubled their share of national income (UC Berkeley). 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 (UC Berkeley), 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, as of 2020 only 5% of CEOs at Fortune 500 firms are women and only 4 CEOs are Black.
In 2019, Black households earned just 61 cents for every dollar earned by a white household, while Hispanic households earned 74 cents (Economic Policy Institute).
While the median income for Asian Americans is 38% greater than the national median income (NCRC), income inequality is also greatest among these households (Pew Research).
The U.S. 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, and sexual orientation)
age (for people over 40)
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.
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 (Vox). 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.
Despite the increasing size of the U.S. workforce, Congress has not significantly increased the EEOC’s budget and has actually reduced the number of employees, adding to the complexity of addressing the volume of complaints properly (American Progress).
In today's digital and remote-working world, access to the internet plays a key part in access to basic services and employment opportunities. Research sponsored by Center for Workforce Inclusion (CWI) Labs found that limited broadband internet access had significant impacts on the economic mobility of older Americans.
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 (GLAAD).
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 (GLAAD).
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 (Freedom for All Americans).
The ability to move up the income ladder is shrinking in the US. 90% of Americans born in the 1940s earn more than their parents compared to just to 50% of those born in the 1980s (Council on Foreign Relations).
The racial wealth gap is estimated to cost the US economy between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion between 2019 and 2028 (McKinsey).
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.
Indicators to measure success outlined by the UN include (SDG-Tracker):
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
Federal, State, and local governments
Employers in all sectors
Policymakers at the Federal, state, and local levels
Employers in all sectors
Higher education institutions
Organizations working on civil rights, income/wage gaps, gender equality and discrimination of other groups based on race, gender identity, religion and more
According to data aggregated by X4Impact there are at least $54M in private and government grants and the $95B in income reported by nonprofits working to reduced inequalities.
Based on data from over 600,000 tax returns filed by nonprofits in the US (data via X4Impact), on an average year, over 26,000 nonprofit organizations deploy $95B in the US to address gender equality-related issues.
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 U.S. 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 U.S. Is Rising Most Rapidly Among Asians
NCRC - Racial Wealth Snapshot: Asian Americans And The Racial Wealth Divide
EEOC - Charges filed with EEOC) FY 1997 Through FY 2020
Vox - 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