How Does Race Affect the Gender Wage Gap?April 03, 2014
Update, October 25, 2016: The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows miniscule changes to the wage gap, especially for women of color. Race and ethnicity have always created a dividing line in the United States, and it’s no different with the gender pay gap. The pay gap affects all women, but it doesn’t affect all women equally. The latest edition of our research report The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap presents the facts about the pay gap between women and men, showing how race and ethnicity, as well as gender, affect pay.
In order to look at the most groups possible, AAUW uses two different data sources from the U.S. Census for earnings ratios by race/ethnicity. For African American, Asian American, and Latina and Hispanic women, we use the Current Population Survey (CPS). Because the CPS lacks sufficient sample size for smaller demographic groups, we use the American Community Survey (ACS) for Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander women and American Indian and Alaska Native women.
Race matters when it comes to the pay gap.
Asian American and white women working full time, year-round had higher annual take-home pay than African American and Hispanic or Latina women did in 2015. This pattern was also similar for men in these groups. The gender pay gap between workers of the same race/ethnicity was smallest within the African American and Hispanic/Latina full-time workforce. Hispanic/Latina women have the lowest earnings of any group.
Hispanic or Latina women are paid 87 percent of what Hispanic or Latino men are paid, while African American women are paid 88 percent of what African American men are paid.
Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women are paid 84 percent of what their male peers are paid. American Indian and Alaska Native women are paid 87 person of what American Indian and Alaska Native men are paid.
Earnings ratios for all groups of women look much worse when compared with the earnings of white men (the largest group in the workforce). Hispanic and Latina women are paid only 54 percent of what white men are paid. African American women are paid only 75 percent of what white men are paid. Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander women were paid 60 percent of white men’s earnings, and American Indian and Alaska Native women were paid only 58 percent of white men’s earnings. Once again we see that Hispanic/Latina women have the lowest earnings and also the largest pay gap with white men.
So, you might ask (and Essence magazine did), what causes African American and Hispanic women to be paid less than white and Asian women?
Education is part of the reason. African American women are less likely to graduate from high school or college than their white peers. Lower graduation rates mean that many African American and Hispanic/Latina young people enter the workforce with one hand tied behind their backs.
Still, while education improves take-home pay for everyone, African American and Hispanic women tend to be paid less than their white peers even when they have the same educational background. This tells us that educational background isn’t the whole story. Another possible explanation is discrimination, whether overt or implicit. Both forms of bias can affect take-home pay. In some ways, implicit bias, or bias that you are not aware of, can be especially problematic — you can learn to compensate for known biases, but you can’t overcome a problem you’re not aware of.
The gender pay gap affects all women, but for African American and Hispanic/Latina women, it is a steeper climb. Luckily, there are actions you can take to help narrow the pay gap, especially for women of color.
Visit fightforfairpay.org to learn more about the gender pay gap, how it affects you, and what you can do to take action for equal pay.
You may have noticed that the gender pay gap varies — in some cases dramatically — from state to state. But do you know why?
Changing the pay gap begins with you.
I left the employer who underpaid me long ago, but the damage done by the thousands of dollars I lost to the gender pay gap sticks with me.