Unfinished Business

The Wage Gap for Latina Workers is Still 54 Cents. That’s Troubling.

By Dominic Rossini, a Fall 2016 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern

Today marks the end of the 10th month of the year. It also marks the 10 extra months that a Latina woman must work to have her earnings equal the salary of a man who only labored for a single year. That’s the outcome of this pay gap: On average, Latinas have to work around 22 months to earn what a White, non-Hispanic man made in 12 months of work.

It comes as no surprise to most that there’s a sustained pay gap between men and women in the American work force, but today we look beyond the gap between just men and women and instead recognize how race and ethnicity impacts this divide. Today, Latinas are paid only 54 cents compared to a White, non-Hispanic man’s one dollar for completing similar work. For Black women the gap is 63 cents, and for Native American women it’s 58 cents.

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This has disastrous consequences for the Latino community by denying them monetary resources that would ultimately benefit them. The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) estimates that the gender wage gap amounts to a loss of $26,095 a year. That amount can mean a lot to a working family attempting to pay its bills, put food on the table, and provide for their children. NWLC also estimates that over the course of a 40-year career, with the current wage gap, the average Latina would lose over a million dollars in wages. Wage gaps also harm the individuality of working Latinas and limit their social and economic mobility.

Even with higher education, the wage gap persists. NWLC reports that Latinas who work full-time, year-round jobs and also have a bachelor’s degree generally only earn about $52,037 per year. A White, non-Hispanic man with only an associate’s degree, on the other hand, generally makes $54,620. This comparison offers a bleak perspective of the position that Latina women are in – that despite having more education, some Latina women still earn lower wages and must work longer to make the same amount of money.

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Something that could help is a minimum wage increase, which would benefit a large amount of Latina workers. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that if the minimum wage were increased to $12 per hour by 2020 – a proposal introduced in Congress that lawmakers ultimately didn’t take up – then more than 35 million workers would receive a raise. The majority of those workers are women, 4.2 million are Latinas, and over 38 percent of Latinos who would benefit are parents. Although a minimum wage hike wouldn’t fully solve the problem, it is a step in the right direction.

And it’s the kind of step forward that we need, since current projections show that – if trends to close the Latina wage gap continue – they’ll have to wait 232 years for equal pay. White women are projected to wait 40 more years, and Black women are projected to wait another 108.

Yes, the United States has come a long way since the days when women could not legally vote and were barred from legitimate employment – but the reminder of this wage gap demonstrates that our lawmakers still have much to do to ensure equality for all women in America.


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