Native Women’s Equal Pay Day: Learn the Facts

September 09, 2019

 

September 23, 2019, marks the day that the wages of American Indian and Alaska Native women catch up to the money white men were paid in 2018. It took about 21 months for these women to earn what white men were paid in 12 months alone — that’s nine extra months. We also use this occasion to recognize the pay gap that Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander women face.

This year, on September 23, we commemorate Native Women’s Equal Pay Day. In 2017, American Indian and Alaska Native women were paid just 58 cents for every dollar white men are paid. For Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander women, that number is 62 cents.

Here’s why you might not already know about this particular pay gap: Native women are a notoriously understudied group.

  • The relatively small size of the population of Native women is at least partially responsible for the lack of information.
  • American Indians and Alaska Natives make up about 1.7 percent of the U.S. population, which is approximately 5.6 million men and women.
  • There are just 1.4 million Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders. In contrast, there are 235 million people in the white population and 41 million in the Black population. Government survey data contain less information about smaller groups.

More research and data are needed in this area, especially with respect to factors that cause and perpetuate the pay gap. We do know that Native people face high rates of unemployment, poverty and violence as well as limited access to education and health care, and Native women experience intersectional discrimination based on race and gender and other forms of discrimination. And yes, there’s a pay gap between Native men (who in turn have a pay gap compared with other men) and Native women.

There is some good news. Native American women are going to college and holding jobs at higher rates than ever before. We know that education and good jobs help increase earnings — though they don’t eliminate the wage gap. So for now, we’ll mark September 23 and keep advocating for real change.

Deborah J. Vagins By:   |   September 09, 2019