Dear Dr. Barb: I am one of the lucky people for whom years of higher education paid off with a great job that allows me to live in an area where most people don't have to worry about money. I didn't grow up rich, but I always worked hard in school and to excel at any job I held. I also maintain a strong social network. How do I deal with people, sometimes even family members, who are always discussing the wage gap? I know there are people with as much education as I have who somehow are not able to find decent jobs. That is nothing I can control. I give to charities, I don't always indulge my children, and we never look down on others. Yet I am concerned about what seems to be a growing divide in this country on so many levels. I wish I could be part of a conversation that could lead to more positive dialogue between people of different races, backgrounds and economic circumstances, but I don't know how to do that. My question to you is should I be doing more? If so, how do I go about it?
I commend you in asking such an important question.You are truly lucky that all your hard work has rewarded you with a good job, a nice community and a strong base of family and friends.
However, as you correctly point out, so many more individuals and families are less fortunate than you are. You are hearing more about the wage gap because economic inequality has grown significantly in the US over the past few decades. Since August 2007, the beginning of the Great Recession, the jobless rate has fallen significantly in this country, but many feel passed over as wage growth has not kept up.
Even more concerning, incomes and wealth appear to be increasing for the richest people, while many others struggle to stay afloat. Not only are there substantial wage gaps between races and gender, but some sociologists also are studying the gaps in wages within racial, gender and socioeconomic groups.