5 States with the Largest Race Income Gap

How much does your race affect your salary? The short answer: A lot more than you probably realize.

Most people know about the gender wage gap that exists between men and women in America. Despite their enormous presence in higher education and the workforce, women who work full time still only earn an average of 82 cents for every man’s dollar. At the current rate of change, notes the American Association of University Women, the gender wage gap will not close until 2093. But blatant gender discrimination isn’t the only problem that persists in our country—America is also home to a large racial wage gap.

According to data collected by the career site Zippia, there are drastic differences in the median incomes of White and Black Americans in 49 states. The only state in which Black workers earn higher median incomes than White workers is Wyoming. In all other states, Black people earn between 46 percent to 91 percent of what White people earn. Research also shows that there’s a prevalent gap between the average wages of Black and White workers who perform the exact same jobs. If you’re wondering how such inequality exists today, read about why desegregation didn’t put an end to racism in America.

Although it is essential to address both gender and racial wage inequality in America, the difference between the two injustices is that the race wage gap is less known and less discussed. As America leans into this period of necessary education and activism, it is important that we evaluate societal norms and unmask hidden racism that perpetuates inequality. To do this, let’s take a look at the top states with the biggest race wage gaps in America.

District of Columbia

Though the District of Columbia is not technically a state, it is the place with the single largest race income gap in America. Despite being the nation’s capital, the home to democracy and political change, D.C. houses a staggering income disparity of 78.4 percent between Black and White earners. While White residents here make a median income of $77,126, Black residents earn a much lower median income of $35,753. The difference between these median wages is a whopping $41,373. Another way to think of it? Black residents in D.C. earn just 54 cents for every dollar that White residents earn—a discrepancy that’s even wider than the national gender wage gap.

In addition to the overall racial income gap in D.C., there is a wide racial wage gap in many industries. For example, according to Data USA, within the category of lawyers, judges, magistrates, and other judicial workers, White people can expect to earn an average full-time salary of $202,541. Black people in the same jobs, however, earn an average salary of $176,019.


Maine earns the dubious distinction of having the second-highest racial income gap in the country, with a disparity of 53.2 percent. In this state, Black residents earn a median income of $17,813, and White residents earn a median income of $33,468. That means that White residents earn about $15,655 more than Black residents. Data USA also cites a distinct racial wage gap between Black and White workers in specific industries, including retail. Corporate America has a long way to go, but some companies are starting to make inroads in the fight for equality. For example, these 10 brands have donated millions toward racial justice.


Louisiana earns third place on Zippia’s list, with a racial disparity of 60.5 percent. In this Southern state, White residents earn a median income of $37,943, while Black residents bring home $22,953. Plus, the racial wage gap is prevalent within many industries here, especially when it comes to registered nurses, first-line supervisors of retail sales workers, elementary and middle school teachers, and cashiers.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire ranks fourth with a 61.2 percent wage gap. Here, White workers earn a median income of $40,064, and Black workers earn a median income of $24,500—a $15,564 difference. Within specific industries, Data USA highlights wage-inequality issues in a variety of fields, including registered nurses and retail salespeople. Here are small but effective ways you can fight racism every day.


With a 62.7 percent income gap, Wisconsin rounds out the top five. White earners in this state have a median income of $36,884, while Black earners have a median income of $36,884. Similar to Louisiana, pay-gap problems are particularly evident among elementary and middle school teachers, customer service representatives, and cashiers.

So, how do we close the gap?

The first step is spreading the word—but just talking about racial income inequality is not enough. Activists and policymakers need to push for reforms at a governmental level and fight to create equal access to opportunities. Some tangible solutions, according to Inequality.org, include improving the wealth-building capacity of low-income families (especially those who have been historically excluded) by creating children’s savings accounts or baby bonds, investing in affordable housing, and strengthening social security protections. Other discussions center around raising the minimum wage, reforming health care, and creating more jobs. Zippia also suggests that increasing transparency in pay, as well as hiring and supporting workers of color, can help to bridge this divide. To do your part, find out what it really means to be an ally in the movement toward equality.

For more on this important issue, see our guide to the Fight Against Racism.


The American Association of University Women: “The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap”

Zippia: “Breaking Down the Race Pay Gap”

Data USA

Inequality.org: “The Racial Wealth Divide Report”

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Carley Lerner
Carley Lerner is a freelance writer and former editorial intern for Reader's Digest. She is a member of the Class of 2021 at Duke University, where she writes for the school newspaper, The Chronicle.