NEW YORK – When people of color ask for raises, they’re a lot less likely than white workers to get the salary bump they request, according to a new study by PayScale, a firm that analyzes compensation data.
Women of color, a group that includes African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics and other nonwhite people, are 19 percent less likely than white men to get the raise they ask for, according to the survey of about 160,000 respondents. Nonwhite men were 25 percent more likely to be turned down for a salary increase.
“Everyone’s asking, but they’re getting different answers,” said Lydia Frank, vice president of content strategy at PayScale. “I think with the current climate in this country and the systemic racism that we’ve seen in other areas, I don’t think it’s terribly surprising.”
In the U.S., white men make the most money of all ethnic groups, on average, with the exception of Asian men. Women of all major racial and ethnic groups earn less than men of the same group, according to the Institute of Women’s Policy Research. Black women earn less than black men; both earn less than white women and white men.
Some of those discrepancies are linked to decisions on who gets hired for certain jobs, research shows. It’s a process that’s often tinged by bias, conscious or otherwise. Frank says the same dynamics are also at play when it comes to deciding who gets a raise and who doesn’t.
“Humans take shortcuts without even realizing it,” she said. “There are things that happen in their brain — ‘Hey I’ve seen somebody like this before and this is what I associate with somebody like this’ — there may be things happening there without you even being fully aware of it that you’re making a judgment about somebody.”
Asking for more money remains better than not asking. Some 70 percent of workers who ask for a raise receive some pay increase, even if it’s not as much as they propose, according to the PayScale study.
When they don’t, the rationale they receive matters. The most common reason workers are denied a raise is “budgetary constraints,” but only 22 percent of workers believe it. The second-most common reason to be denied a raise is no reason at all. In either case, whether the employee isn’t given a reason or he doesn’t believe the reason he is given, almost three-fourths of respondents said they planned to quit in the next six months.