The gender wage gap is complicated. Most people have heard that women make, on average, 77¢ for every dollar that a man in the same job earns. That number comes from U.S. Census Bureau data that indicates what the typical American woman working at least 35 hours a week, year-round is paid. People cite it so often, in part, because that the number hasn’t changed much since 2002, ranging from 75.2% to 77.8% of what men working the same jobs are paid. Over the course of a year, that adds up to a deficit in excess of $11,500.
But it’s not fair, nor is it accurate, to hang on to that 77¢ as the ultimate indicator of the wage gap. It’s much more complex than that.
In new analysis conducted by the National Partnership for Women & Families, the 77¢ to the dollar figure is a median for all women collectively. However, African-American and Hispanic women have an even more significant gender-based wage gap, not just when measured against men, but also compared to white women. Among the findings:
Nationally, on average, African-American women are paid 60¢ and Latinas are paid 55¢ for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. This amounts to annual losses of $21,937 and $25,177, respectively. The new analysis breaks down at the national level what that lost income could mean in terms of African-American and Hispanic women’s ability to purchase basic necessities for their families, such as food, housing, utilities, and gas.
The National Partnership also released state-specific findings for both these segments of the female population in the U.S. In the 20 states in which most are employed full time, year round, the findings indicate that for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men in these states, on average, African-American women are paid from just 48¢ to 69¢, and Latinas from just 43¢ to 59¢. This is for Hispanic and African-American women of all pay grades, not just those who are low-wage employees.
“Pay inequities and wage discrimination perpetuate poverty, and women of color suffer the most,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership. “In the very states in which most African-American women and Latinas work, the loss of critical income makes it much harder for them and their families to get ahead or even stay afloat.”
Both California and Texas have the largest populations of Latinas working full time, year round. In California, Latinas are paid 43¢, and Latinas in Texas are paid 44¢ for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. New Jersey has the largest overall cents-on-the-dollar wage gap at just 43¢ for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, tied with California.
Although Latinas in Florida experience the smallest gap in the analysis, they are still paid $20,300 less than white, non-Hispanic men in the state, per year.
Among the 20 states with the largest populations of African-American women working full time, year round, Louisiana’s balance tips heavily in favor of men. The 208,265 African-American female workers in that state are paid 48¢ on the dollar, making their annual deficit $28,372.
The cents-on-the-dollar wage gap is smallest for African-American women in Maryland and Tennessee, yet African-American women in these states are still paid, on average, less than the overall national gap of 77¢. The lesser of the wage gaps still means a deficit of over $14,400 for black women each year.
A recent PayScale study found that married men earn the highest overall salaries ($67,900 for men with children; $60,800 for those without). This is in sharp contrast to single moms who have the lowest overall salaries, both uncontrolled ($38,200), and when controlled ($45,500) for all measured compensable factors (experience, job, etc.).
Other recent findings from Pew Research Center reveal that four in 10 American households with children were headed up by a mother who was either the sole or primary earner for her family.
In the National Partnership analysis, 40% of married Latina mothers bring in half or more than half of their families’ income, and nearly 3 million family households in the United States are headed by Latinas. About 1.2 million of these live in poverty.
More than 50% of married African-American mothers bring in half or more than half of their families’ income, and about 4.1 million family households in the United States are headed by African-American women. An estimated 1.5 million family households headed by African-American women live in poverty.
According to Ness:
The fact that women of color are losing tens of thousands of dollars each year that could go toward buying food and other essentials that their families and our economy depend on is appalling, and it weakens our communities and our country. Lawmakers at all levels need to step up to fix the problem by combating discrimination and adopting family-friendly workplace policies.
President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act shortly after his inauguration in 2009, to restore the protection against pay discrimination that was removed by the Supreme Court decision in the ruling of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
Ness is advocating that Congress pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and establish stronger workplace protections for women.