Inequality has Cost the U.S. Economy $22.9 Trillion Since 1990

Posted by Viviana Vazquez in EconomySeptember 19, 2021(Last Updated December 20, 2022)3 min read
Key Takeaways
  • The Brookings Institution conducted an economic study to measure the impact of inequality since 1990.
  • Researchers tried to measure how much economic growth there would have been if opportunities and outcomes were equal across race, age, and ethnicity.
  • The study found that the U.S. missed out on $22.9 trillion in economic growth since 1990 due to inequality.
  • Eliminating inequality in the workforce would help combat discrimination and boost the U.S. economy.
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According to the Brookings Institution, the United States economy has missed out on $22.9 trillion in economic growth since 1990. The report implies that eliminating inequality promotes an advanced economy and eliminates many forms of discrimination that are still alive and present today.


The study by Brookings analyzed differences between white, Black, and Hispanic men and women from age 25 to 64. They measured the following from the U.S. labor market: 

  • Employment percentage
  • Hours worked
  • Level of education completed
  • Educational utilization   
  • Unexplained earning gaps


The findings found that the level of inequality across the groups mentioned above caused the economy to miss out on significant gains. Due to systemic and structural barriers, many qualified candidates continue to be overlooked based on their race, age, and gender. The discrimination based on the factors above contributes to the growing racial wealth gap issue in the U.S. today. 


Although the study did not measure discrimination against gender identity, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation, it is essential to recognize that these groups are also often discriminated against, causing inequality in the workforce and beyond.


Examples of Inequality 


Inequality has proven to have negative repercussions, which becomes detrimental for a business' activities. One recent example of inequality in the workplace that made headlines is Apple's lack of pay equity and the company trying to block their employees from discussing it, even internally.


man vs. woman


Recently, news came out regarding how Apple’s employees were comparing a particular group’s high-income levels. Specifically, some female employees felt their male counterparts were receiving higher compensation for the same role. When employees started to dive deeper into their investigation, Apple intervened and denied them permission to do so.


Recommended Read: Apple Bans Internal Slack Channel of Workers Discussing Pay Equity


How to Combat Discrimination and Economic Inequality


To combat inequality and discrimination in the workplace, everyone needs to play their part. Below are some steps both an employer and an employee can take to reduce bias in the workplace. 




Be a Team Player


Be open-minded, and learn more about the coworkers who are different from you. Accept your coworkers for who they are, regardless of their appearance or their background. 


Talk Openly about Pay


Talking openly about pay will help ensure that there is no pay inequality in the workplace. Being transparent will allow employees to keep an employer accountable for any pay inequality issues in the workplace.


man and woman equal




Prevent Inequality and Provide Equity


An employer's job is to ensure that all employees are treated fairly and do not experience inequality. Therefore, taking steps to prevent and eliminate inequality while advancing equity is crucial in running an efficient, cohesive business.


Hire a Diverse Workforce


The best way to fight workplace inequality is through hiring a diverse workforce. A diverse workforce gives qualified candidates a fair opportunity to work, regardless of race, color, gender identity, age, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation.


Offer Your Employees Equal and Fair Wages and Benefits

Pay your employees a fair wage. Review each employee's pay every year to ensure they receive equal pay compared to their counterparts performing the same duties. 


Offer your employees retirement, health care, and other wellness benefits to ensure that they can take care of their mental and physical health. Doing so will promote a healthy and happy work environment for all.


Educate Your Employees


Host events that will allow your employees to educate themselves about different cultures and other need-to-know information. Celebrate national and global holidays to promote education. Be respectful and teach others to be respectful of other cultures and beliefs. 


Inequality is still a pervasive issue in the workplace today. It lowers the morale of the workplace, creates tension, and hinders economic growth. According to the Brookings Institute, there would have been $22.9 trillion more in our economy had equal access to employment and opportunities across age, gender, and race. To combat this, we must work together as employees and employers to hold one another accountable to create an equitable and diverse workforce across the United States.

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