The earnings pay gap between white men and everyone else in the United States remains stubbornly large, with one notable exception.
Asian men are out-earning white men, according to a recent analysis from the Pew Research Center of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last year, Asian men earned median hourly pay of $24, compared with $21 an hour for white men. That means that Asian men are the highest paid workers in the U.S., surpassing men and women of all races, the study found.
The pay gap can be partially explained by factors such as educational attainment, which is one area where many Asian workers can come out ahead. In the post-recession years, workers with college degrees have pulled farther away from those with only high school degrees, in both earnings and job opportunities. About 53 percent of Asian-Americans older than 25 have college degrees, compared with just 36 percent of whites, 23 percent of blacks, and 15 percent of Hispanics, Pew noted.
Still, one other demographic is making some progress in catching up with white men, the study found.
"While the hourly earnings of white men continue to outpace those of women, all groups of women have made progress in narrowing this wage gap since 1980, reflecting at least in part a significant increase in the education levels and workforce experience of women over time," the report said.
Back in 1980, white women made about 60 cents for every $1 earned by their white male counterparts. By 2015, that had jumped to 82 cents for every $1 earned by white men, Pew said.
Among women of different races, Asian women have narrowed the gender gap the most, with Pew finding that they are making 87 cents for every $1 earned by their white male counterparts.
But two other groups have made almost no progress: black and Hispanic men. Black men are earning the same 73 cents to every $1 earned by white men that they did in 1980, while Hispanic men have actually lost ground, earning 69 cents on the dollar in 2015, or two cents less than in 1980.
Pew's findings may feed into the stereotype of Asians as the "model minority," which holds up Asians as studious and hard-working and can come with its own set of negative issues. The stereotype fails to view Asians as individuals, and ignores economic differences within Asian communities, for instance.
Cambodians and Hmong communities tend to have very high poverty rates, the Brookings Institution noted in a report earlier this year. One reason? Those ethnicities tend to live in areas with underperforming schools, similar in quality to the schools in areas where low-income black families live, the study found.
"Given the similar--and striking--differences in access to quality schools, and apparent relationship to outcomes, it seems reasonable to conclude that material factors like access to good schools plays a critical role for all Americans, whatever their race," wrote Nathan Joo, Richard V. Reeves and Edward Rodrigue in the study.
As they pointed out, while a stable family and the ability to work hard in school serves all children well, the quality of schools at the K-12 level also plays an important role in future earnings, regardless of race or gender.
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