Proposal for New Council

How can social work even begin to address economic inequality nationwide if we cannot even address this within our own profession? 

By Brian Kaufman

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr once said that “Injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere.”  The social work profession has a long and proud history of championing the cause of social injustice wherever it exists. In fact, it is codified as one of our ethical principles. 

However, there can be no greater social injustice facing us than the economic inequality existing in the social work profession itself.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2018) identifies that the median household income has barely kept up with inflation, and the social work profession falls within this trend by identifying that, adjusted for inflation, the median income for a social worker is actually less than it was in 2003.

On top of that, nearly all of the economic gains from this most recent economic recovery have gone to the wealthiest one percent (Wolfers, 2015).  From 1947 to 2012, adjusted for inflation, the income of the top one percent rose an astonishing 422 percent while the bottom 90 percent only rose 76 percent (Leopold, 2016).

In fact, the single greatest predictor of future wealth is what zip code that person was born in (Sanchez et al, 2015).  Part of the reason for this predictor is race.  Among those that live below the poverty line, 26 percent are African-American and 24 percent are Latino, while only 10 percent are white. Another part is home ownership.  Over 73% of Whites own their own home, while only 43 percent of Blacks and 46 percent of Latinos (Leopold, 2016).

Simply by living in a poor community can be a health hazard.  The average life expectancy of someone living in one of the poorest communities can be as much as 15 years less than someone living in one of the wealthiest communities (Chetty et al., 2016).

How can social work even begin to address economic inequality nationwide if we cannot even address this within our own profession? 

That is why I am proposing that we form a new council that will be charged with looking at social work as an occupation. In the coming months, I will be putting together a petition as well as a proposal to be presented for the board’s approval and then will be soliciting for volunteers.  This new council will look at trends in salaries, benefits and working conditions of social workers in California. This council will partner with other organization including labor unions in order to find proposed solutions to help close this widening economic gap.


Bureau of Labor Statistics (2018).  Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey.  Retrieved from

Chetty, R, Stepner, M, Abraham, S, Lin, S, Scuderi, B, Turner, N, Bergeron, A, & Cutler, D.  (2016).  The Association Between Income and Life Expectancy in the United States, 2001-2014.  Journal of the American Medical Association. 315(16), 1750-1766.

Leopold, L. (2016).  Runaway Inequality: An Activist’s Guide to Economic Justice.  New York: Labor Institute Press.

Sanchez, D, Ross, T, Gordon, J, Edelman, S, Zonta, M, & Schwartz, A (2015).  An Opportunity Agenda for Renters.  Retrieved from

Wolfers, J. (2015). The Gains from the Economic Recovery Are Still Limited to the Top One Percent.  Retrieved from

Brian Kaufman can be reached at