According to the Pew Research Center,
Among full- and part-time workers in the U.S., blacks in 2015 earned just 75% as much as whites in median hourly earnings and women earned 83% as much as men.
Differences in education levels between different ethnic groups remains a large variable for discrepancy of wages.
Among adults ages 25 and older, 23% of blacks and 15% of Hispanics have a bachelor’s degree or more education, compared with 36% of whites and 53% of Asians.
However, there might be another factor contributing to increasing inequality in both wages and college opportunities. “Power Couples”, once believed to only inhabit the cover of tabloid magazines, could be a leading cause of increasing inequality. Power Couples, or assortative mating, refers to marriages being clustered in higher socioeconomic areas. Thus, the wealth stays within the wealthy families. Tyler Cowen writes,
… higher income and educational inequality increase the incentive to seek out a good marriage match, so the process may become self-reinforcing.
As it becomes harder for many people to “marry up” as a path for income mobility for themselves or their children, families that are not well connected may feel disengaged, and the significant, family-based advantages for some children may discourage others from even trying.
In fact, a study of Denmark by Gustaf Bruze showed that
… about half of the expected financial gain of attending college derived not from better job prospects but from the chance to meet and marry a higher-earning spouse.
However, this tendency might not be all doom and gloom. Cowen also stipulates that
… many innovators and business creators will receive their initial boosts early in their lives, including the very best training in childhood, and that may enhance their eventual productivity.
Regardless, assortative mating is an increasing concern for lawmakers when it comes to income inequality between different groups. The reason for it is there is no easy policy solution. The state can’t simply dictate who marries who. The easiest answer is to help pave easier paths for lower income groups to go to college and converse with higher income groups. As we have seen in this past election, this is a sticky issue in itself. Race, marriage, and inequality may be more linked than we think.