Spotlight: An Interview with Raine Dozier on her Work, "Accumulating Disadvantage: The Growth in the Black-White Wage Gap among Women

Raine Dozier 
Ph.D. Sociology, University of Washington

Raine Dozier holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Washington. Her research interests include economic inequality, work, gender, and race/ethnicity. Her dissertation, for which she was awarded a fellowship from the West Coast Poverty Center and the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, examines the growth in the black-white wage gap among women. An initial paper from this research was awarded Best Graduate Student Paper from the Race, Gender, and Class section of the American Sociological Association and the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, University of Washington. Further research examines broader trends in African-American, Latina, and white women’s economic well-being in the United States.

By 1980, the hourly wages of African American women had reached and even exceeded those of white women in the U.S. Since that time, African American women’s earning declined dramatically relative to those of white women, resulting in a 17 percent black-white wage gap by 2002. In Accumulating Disadvantage: The Growth in the Black- White Wage Gap among Women Dozier sought to examine why this gap has grown during a time of apparent decreasing discrimination and increasing occupational opportunity for African Americans.

The West Coast Poverty Center had the opportunity to ask Dozier about her thoughts on this work, which was presented at the 2006American Sociological Association;Annual Meeting, and received the ASA's student paper award in the Race, Gender, and Class section, and the Harry Bridges Center for Labor's graduate student paper prize at the University of Washington. The text of that interview is below.  Read the full summary of her work in WCPC Research Flash 2008-05.


WCPC: How did you become interested in the wage gap between black and white women?

Dozier: My mentor, Becky Pettit, mentioned the startling growth in the black-white wage gap among women since the late 1970s. It was surprising to me that there has been relatively little research regarding this marked growth even though the wage gap among men, although larger, has remained similar over this time period. I have found that in “coffee shop” conversations, people are alarmed and outraged at the declining wage status of African American women and the lack of attention it has garnered. It is my goal to figure out why wage inequality continues to grow and to begin to develop policy recommendations that might work to level the playing field for African American women workers.

WCPC: What was the most significant finding to you?

Dozier: The most significant finding was that what we commonly think of as the problem—the growth in low end service work—had little effect on the growth in the black-white wage gap. Instead, it was increased opportunities for women that ultimately led to black-white wage inequality. That is, women moved up and into white collar jobs, but African American women did not fare nearly as well as white women, even with a degree, during the transition.

WCPC: What questions does this research raise for future inquiry?

Dozier: Future research needs to address why college educated, African American women are having less success than they were thirty years ago. In addition, research must examine how the jobs African American and white women have as professionals and managers differ, and to what degree this effects the wage gap. Another portion of my research finds great inequality within the health care industry. In fact, “nurse’s aide” is the most common job for black women in the United States and the wage gap is approximately thirty percent. Future research should examine the barriers to African American women’s advancement in the health care industry.

WCPC: What implications does this study have for policy makers?

Dozier: In many ways, the implications of my research are not new. Women have gained access to exciting, new opportunities in the past twenty-five years, but those opportunities have been unequally distributed. We must offer equal opportunity in education and training to women regardless of race, ethnicity, or social class. Providing equal opportunity for women requires equity in elementary and high school education, funding for post-secondary training and education, and access to affordable childcare and transportation. However, even if African American women were to reach parity with white women, as long as there are jobs available that do not provide a living wage, someone must face severe economic hardship while working in the United States. The only long-term solution is to create a minimum wage and tax legislation that assures women who work in the United States receive a living wage.