Black workers have seen the most significant increase in median wages in the last year, resulting in a slight narrowing of the racial income gap, according to an analysis of census data released Tuesday.
The Economic Policy Institute is a progressive research nonprofit with a particular focus on economic and labor issues. EPI experts organized a media call to review what they found in recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau. They point to generally positive trends when it came to incomes and poverty with some exceptions.
The EPI review also looked at income data based on race. They found median incomes for black households increased more than other races in 2016. The increase helped to narrow the racial income gap slightly, though white households still earn more.
“Median household incomes overall increased by 3.2 percent over the last year,” EPI research director Valerie Wilson said during the call. “The fastest increase has been among African-American households at 5.7 percent. Median African-American household income is now $39,490.”
The U.S. Census Bureau data revealed Tuesday that overall median household incomes last year increased by 3.2 percent to $59,039 annually. The report marks the second consecutive year median household incomes increased. It also found 2.5 million fewer people were living in poverty compared to 2015.
White households saw very little wage growth compared to other races overall. They still make more than black and Hispanic workers at a median income of $65,041. Asian households do make more with a median income of $81,431 annually.
“The second fastest increase was among Hispanic households at 4.3 percent with a median income of $47,675,” Wilson, who oversees race and ethnicity issues, said. “That’s followed by Asian households with an increase of 4.2 percent, up to $81,431. And then white non-Hispanic households had an income increase of two percent. That’s up to $65,041.”
Wilson warns the positive income growth minority workers are seeing is less optimistic when gender is taken into account. She notes that last year white male earnings increased by 1.4 percent. Black males were able to increase by more at 3.7 percent and Hispanic males saw their incomes increase by 5.6 percent.
“On the other hand, women’s earnings don’t look as good, at least for black and Hispanic women,” Wilson said. “Over the past year, white women’s earnings increased 3.7 percent. However, African-American women earnings declined nearly one percent.”
Wilson notes that it’s unclear why wages have declined for minority women but that it might be the result of job growth in low-wage industries. More low-wage jobs would bring down the average. The EPI has warned about the gender wage gap in the past while highlighting how it’s more severe among minority women.