Unfinished Business

In 2017, Black Women Still Face a Devastating Wage Gap

By Arielle Atherley, Policy Associate

Today marks Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, the day we acknowledge the eight additional months Black women must work in order to make the same amount that White, non-Hispanic men made the year before. That’s right – in 2017, Black women are paid, on average, just 63 cents for every dollar paid to White men. This amounts to a devastating loss of $21,001 per year.

It’s certainly not news that women’s wages continue to lag behind those of their male peers. According to the National Women’s Law Center, “When comparing all men and women who work full time, year round in the United States, women are paid just 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts.” For women of color, the gap is even worse.

Black women face unique challenges in the fight for pay equity. They are more likely to work in low-paying occupations and, even when they attain advanced degrees, they continue to face a disturbing wage gap. Additionally, given that more than 80 percent of Black mothers bring in 40 percent or more of their families’ income, unequal pay negatively impacts the lives of Black mothers, their families, and the communities that depend on them.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Black women make up the largest percentage of full-time minimum wage employees and the smallest percentage of people in high-paying occupations. Even where Black women secure positions in well-paid occupations, the wage gap persists. A Black female physician or surgeon can expect to make just 54 cents on the dollar for every dollar earned by a White, non-Hispanic man.

Not even education can mitigate the wage discrepancy. Black women with a bachelor’s degree earn approximately $46,694, which is just under what White, non-Hispanic men make with just a high school degree. This disparity makes it exceedingly difficult for highly educated Black women to pay off their student loans. In fact, a report by the American Association of University Women found that four years after graduation, Black women had paid off less than 10 percent of their debt. And over the course of a 40-year career, Black women have the potential to lose nearly $900,000 to the wage gap.

Black women – all women – can’t afford to keep losing. Through policies that address pay equity, the minimum wage, and other economic security measures, it’s imperative that the elimination of this devastating gap is a priority.


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