Each year the United States commemorates Equal Pay Day to illustrate the gap between men’s and women’s wages. Data show that women still earn 77 cents to every dollar a man earns. This gender-based wage gap stubbornly remains despite the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963 and a variety of legislation prohibiting employment discrimination.
The wage gap is even greater for most women of color. For Latina women in particular, who only make 55 cents to every dollar earned by white men, pay equity is key to the economic advancement of their families and communities.
Below are 10 facts that demonstrate why pay equity is important for Latina women and their families.
1. $521: The median weekly earning for Latinas in 2012, compared to $710 for white women, $599 for black women, and $770 for Asian American women. Latinas will make 80 percent of the earnings of Latino men and 59 percent of the annual earnings of white men.
2. $29,020: The yearly earnings of the average Latina, compared to a median salary of $48,202 for all men. Research done by the National Partnership for Women and Families shows that a Latina woman working full time loses the equivalent of 154 weeks’ worth of food on average each year.
3. $9,605: The average annual Social Security payment received by Latina women 65 years of age and older in 2010, compared to an average $12,815 received by Latino men.
4. 40 percent: The share of all Latina-headed households living below the poverty level in 2010. In Latina-headed households with children under the age of 5, the percent living in poverty increases to more than 50 percent. With more than 2 million households in the United States currently headed by Latinas, pay equity is incredibly important.
5. 208,000: The number of Latina women who worked in jobs paying below the federal minimum wage in 2011, compared to 172,000 Latino men. Because many Latina women are tied to their immigration status, they are forced to accept almost any working terms in order to support their families such as long working hours, no benefits, and low pay. If the wage gap is closed, Latina women will have the opportunity to provide more for their families.
6. 11.8 percent: The Latina unemployment rate for 2011, compared to 7.5 percent for white women and 11.2 percent for Latino men. Latinas are an important part of the American workforce, representing 5.8 percent of the total worker population in the United States. Yet they have the lowest employment-to-population ratio in the nation at 52.7 percent.
7. One-third: The proportion of Latinas who are uninsured, compared to 16 percent of white women and 20 percent of African American women. This lack of health coverage explains why in 2010 more than 42 percent of Latinas did not make a single trip to a medical provider. Pay equity will help those without health insurance, afford medical providers.
8. 51 cents to 68 cents: The range that the average Latina is paid, compared to every dollar earned by the average man in the 20 states with the largest Latina populations working full time. These numbers illustrate that even in the states with the largest Latina populations, the wage gap is still significant, and in some cases, the wage gap is much larger than in states with smaller Latina populations. Closing the wage gap would affect millions of women in these states alone.
9. 42.3 percent: The share of Latinas that have access to a single paid sick day, compared to 60 percent of African Americans and white women. Access to parental leave among Latinos is the lowest of any racial group despite their being more likely to have young children in need of care or supervision. Lack of access to paid sick leave forces Latino families to make hard decisions such as the choice between losing pay and taking time off work to care for a sick child.
10. 61 percent: The share of all Latino-earned bachelor’s degrees earned by Latina women in the 2009–10 school year. Latina women also earn 62 percent of associate’s degrees, 64 percent of master’s degrees, and 53 percent of all first-professional degrees awarded to Latino students. Though Latinas are earning more degrees, it is still not enough to close the wage gap. Data show that female managers still earn just 81 percent of what male managers do, even after researchers controlled for age, education, hours worked beyond full time, sector, marital status, and the presence of children in the household.
As Latinas continue to comprise a growing share of our nation’s population, we must continue to push forward the importance of pay equity. Closing the wage gap will lead to fewer Latinas in poverty and more opportunities for both Latinas and their families. The challenges that Latina women face not only affect them but also affect our entire society, as their children attend our schools and they become the nation’s majority.
Jennifer Molina and Morriah Kaplan are interns with Progress 2050 at the Center for American Progress.