How White Privilege Gives a Leg Up in the U.S. Economy

By: James Dorman | Published: Jun 29, 2024

White privilege refers to the advantages white people often experience socially and economically by virtue of the color of their skin.

Sadly, modern society still sees disparities in opportunities and treatment people experience based solely on skin color. Here are a few of the ways white privilege gives people advantages in the U.S. economy.

Employment Opportunities

To start with, it can often be a lot easier for white people to simply get a job.

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According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, white job applicants can face fewer barriers when applying for jobs. They also typically experience higher callback rates on applications than equally qualified applicants of color.


Education Access

As any parent will often lecture their child when it comes time for college applications, a quality education can be the key to getting a good, well-paying job and just generally setting yourself up for your life ahead.

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According to the U.S. Department of Education, white students often attend better-funded schools and typically have access to more advanced resources and courses.

Employment Discrimination

Applicants can face discrimination, whether consciously or unconsciously, from recruiters when applying for jobs. People of color are far more likely to suffer this discrimination.

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According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, white job applicants are far less likely to face discrimination based on their names or ethnic backgrounds.

Political Representation

The economic opportunities people may or may not have can often be down to the policies put in place by the politicians representing them.

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The Center for American Progress indicates that white individuals hold a disproportionate share of political power and representation. It’s hardly surprising that policies may therefore tend to favor the interests of white people.

Housing and Banking

People of color can face discrimination when approaching banks for financial support or when attempting to get on the property ladder.

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According to the Brookings Institution think tank, white people encounter far less discrimination or hurdles to accessing loans and mortgages and, as such, have higher homeowner rates compared to people of color.


Social Mobility

Social mobility refers to a person’s capacity to change their socio-economic situation and improve their economic standing. This can either be an improvement compared to their parents or an upward economic move throughout their lives, accessing greater opportunities.

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The Pew Charitable Trusts indicate that, compared to people of color, white people typically experience greater social mobility and access to higher-paying jobs.


Healthcare Access

Staying fit and healthy is crucial to enjoying any sort of economic advantage. For one, it allows you to be able to work and chase opportunities.

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The Commonwealth Fund supports independent research into healthcare and issues of healthcare access. They’ve found white individuals may receive better quality medical treatment and face fewer barriers to accessing healthcare than people of color.


Job Promotions

Career progression is a key to gaining economic advantages. One obvious way to progress professionally and improve your economic standing is to get promoted within the organization you work.

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Harvard Business Review indicates that white employees are more likely to be promoted to higher positions within organizations compared to colleagues who are people of color.


Ease of Travel

Travel is a good way to access education and employment opportunities and to generally enrich your life.

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Travel can often be far easier for white individuals, facing fewer travel-related inconveniences like being stopped and searched and being subject to less racial profiling than people of color. They might also face fewer border or visa restrictions.


Historical Narratives

The very notion of white privilege likely continues to exist because of the historical narratives of people of different skin colors in our culture and education.

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The history of white communities and the contributions of white individuals tend to be highlighted in school curricula in particular, while historical stories of people of color are marginalized.


White Privilege in American Society

There is no question that in a broad, societal context, white individuals still tend to have better economic opportunities and prospects compared to people of color.

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White privilege can manifest in multiple different aspects of American society and serve to perpetuate disparity and inequality based on race. Recognizing and addressing how white privilege manifests is crucial to dismantling it and moving toward a more equitable society.