Some say the educational system is to blame for the progress and hindrance of change in the racial wage gap. One issue seems to be that those with low skill have the misfortune of having fewer job opportunities. Along with unemployment, it is important to factor in disability as well as mass incarceration. 

According to a National Bureau of Economic Search report, though the incarceration rates have quintupled for white men and tripled for black men between 1980 and 2010, the overall percentage for white men remained much lower at around 1.15 percent of the population. Whereas the percentage skyrocketed from 2.6 percent to 8.3 percent for black men. 

As for the percentile rank gap in earning, black men relative to white man have moved from the 24th percentile to the 27th, which is certainly minute seeing that this study was conducted over the course of 75 years.

It is true that the economy overall has experienced an increase in wage inequality, however, this increase has been more detrimental to black men due to mass incarceration and failure to account for disability and unemployment. 

Highly-skilled black men, due to more equal access to educational opportunities, are moving closer to white men in terms of the wage gap. This is due in part to access to highly skilled occupational opportunities. 

So why isn't the wage gap tightening up? The report states, "While the entire economy has experienced a marked increase in earnings inequality, this increase has been even more dramatic for black men, with those at the top continuing to make clear gains within the earnings distribution, and those at the bottom being especially harmed by the era of mass incarceration and the failing job market for men with low skills."

The issues of unemployment, disability and mass incarceration counter the smaller portion of the black male population that has gained equal access to higher education and occupational opportunities. 

This study further highlights the need for prison reform, which should include a better plan for inmate matriculation into society. Also, moving forward, this sheds light on the need to encourage more black students to take on career paths centered on STEM and technology.

With greater educational opportunities, the black population could be headed in the right direction n order to close the racial wage gap.

Loving Blavity’s content? Sign up for our newsletter!