For recent college graduates, Washington, D.C., stands tall as a beacon of opportunity. With thriving post-recession job sectors and entry-level positions in politics, business and the like, D.C.’s government is consistently ranked as one of the top places to live for young professionals.

What these rankings mask is a far more important fact: Today, the D.C. wage gap is the largest it has been in the past 35 years.

According to a recent study by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, the hourly income for low-wage workers has fallen to an average of $12.62, over $30 less than the average hourly income of high-wage workers, which is $45.30.

Furthermore, in a study conducted by Global Insight in August 2014 the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metro area was ranked as having the lowest wage distribution ratio of the 357 metro areas that were ranked. This number, calculated by dividing the number of households with incomes below 35,000 by the number of households with joint incomes above 75,000, further shows the troubling wage differential that plagues the city.

Furthermore, this wage disparity adversely affects those low-wage workers without a college degree, whose average hourly wage fell to $13 during the study period.

While D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has pledged to emphasize affordable housing and job training programs in her first budget this coming spring, a $16 million budget deficit this year will mean likely cuts to important programs such as counselling programs for the homeless. This inequality may increase unless action is taken by Bowser and the D.C. Council to create legislation that addresses the wage gap.

Inequality has the potential to polarize D.C.’s community, but addressing the wage gap directly is an important means to a city that serves as a beacon not only for young professionals, but for all who call the District home.

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