The Black-White Wage Gap Is as Big as It Was in 1950

That’s remarkable. Despite decades of political change — the end of enforced segregation across the South, the legalization of interracial marriage, the passage of multiple civil rights laws and more — the wages of black men trail those of white men by as much as when Harry Truman was president. That gap indicates that there have also been powerful forces pushing against racial equality.

Before getting into the causes, though, I want to explain the difference between the best-known wage statistics and the more accurate version. The traditional numbers are incomplete in a way that many people do not realize: They cover only workers. People who don’t work are ignored. This group includes students, full-time parents, people who have given up on finding work and people who are incarcerated.