The Importance of Race When Discussing the Wage Gap

April 09, 2013

Each year, AAUW’s The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap addresses this question, and, of course, the answer is that the pay gap affects all women; but it doesn’t affect all women equally. Race/ethnicity has always created a dividing line in the United States, and it’s no different with the pay gap. In 2012, Asian American and white women had higher weekly earnings than African American and Hispanic or Latina women, and the pattern was similar for men of these groups. The gender pay gap was smallest between African American and Hispanic or Latina/o women and men, but compared with white men (the largest group in the workforce), black and Hispanic or Latina women fare poorly. Hispanic or Latina women are paid 88 percent of what their male counterparts are paid, but only 59 percent of what white men are paid . The gap is smallest between African American women and men: African American women are paid 90 percent of what African American men are paid, but just 68 percent of what white men are paid.

Women's Median Weekly Earnings by Race/Ethnivity and Education, 2012Asian American women have the highest earnings of all female groups, including white women. Asian American women were paid 73 percent of what Asian American men were paid and 88 percent of what white men were paid. So while the gender pay gap within their own racial/ethnic group is larger than the national average, compared with white men, they experience the smallest gender pay gap of any racial/ethnic group in the workforce.

The 2013 edition of The Simple Truth presents the facts about the pay gap between women and men, showing how race and ethnicity as well as gender affect earnings. The race/ethnicity gap and the gender gap converge in the lives of African American and Hispanic women, who were paid the least of any group. The median weekly earnings of white women were higher than those of African American and Hispanic or Latina women across all levels of education. And while education level may explain part of the difference in earnings between racial and ethnic groups, it isn’t the whole story. Not all of the race/ethnicity-based pay gap among women is explained by education, and more research is needed to better understand and combat the problem.

Visit to learn more about the gender pay gap, how it affects you, and what you can do to take action for equal pay.

Katie Benson By:   |   April 09, 2013