Virginia Still Has Significant Wage Disparity A Decade After the Recession

Aug 2, 2018

Credit MBandman / Creative Commons

The recession is now a distant memory, and in many ways Virginia’s economy has improved. But, that rising tide has not lifted all boats.

Ever since the recession, white workers have seen their wages go up 82 cents an hour. But Hispanic workers have seen their wages decrease 32 cents an hour. And black workers have seen their wages decrease 58 cents an hour.

Laura Goren at the Commonwealth Institute says these numbers are particular to Virginia.

“Black and Hispanic median wages in the country as a whole have marginally increased in the past 10 years, while in Virginia they have decreased.”

Hamilton Lombard at the University of Virginia says blacks and Hispanics have lower educational attainment rates, which is causing the sluggish recovery.

“The construction industry, which is one of the best jobs for people without a college degree is just barely starting to recover now. So I think — and this is what we’ve seen in the past, and we’re definitely seeing it in this recovery — people with lower educational attainment rates are the last to really feel the recovery.”

That recovery is playing out differently across Virginia. Lombard says African-American workers in Roanoke and Stafford are more likely to have a college degree that white workers, and they’re more likely to make more money. But the opposite is true in places like Charlottesville or Arlington, where white workers are more likely to have a college degree and more likely to have a higher income.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.