As AAUW’s research shows, women of every race and ethnicity experience a gender pay gap, but it is widest for Black women and Latinas. All these groups are paid only a portion of white, non-Hispanic men’s earnings: Asian women (87%); white, non-Hispanic women (79%); Black women (63%); Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander women (61%); and American Indian and Alaska Native women (57%). Altogether, women working full time, year-round in the United States in 2020 were paid an average of only 83% of what white non-Hispanic men were paid.
Latinas and the Pay Gap
How would you like to work the same hours for half the pay? That’s the case for many Latinas in the United States.
Because of the gender pay gap, Latinas were compensated just 57% of what non-Hispanic white men were paid in 2020. That means it takes Latina workers almost an entire extra year of full-time, year-round work to be paid the average annual earnings of white men.
The COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate economic toll on women, most notably women of color, will have economic ramifications for years—compounding existing inequities. Latinas have been hit particularly hard, with surging unemployment and a worse gender pay gap than virtually all other demographic groups, including white women, Black women, Asian women and Native women. At the current rate of progress, Latinas won’t achieve equal pay for another 432 years.
And, although the most recent data indicate a narrowing of the pay gap numbers, in fact women and their families are more economically insecure. That’s because the dramatic shift in the people who make up the labor force is affecting how the gender pay gap is reported. Women who have lost their jobs—a significant portion of whom are low-wage earners—are not included in this year’s calculation, making the gap appear slightly smaller in 2020 than it was in years past.
People’s occupational choices help us understand some of the pay gap, but not all of it. Latinas make up about one-third of the U.S. service industry, a sector in which workers are often paid by the hour and usually at the lower end of the pay scale. Research shows that women are underpaid compared to men in nearly every job in food service, even after accounting for tips. Hispanic or Latino people also account for nearly 15% of sales and office occupations and 37% of building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations, all of which are low-paying jobs.
In addition to being overrepresented at the low-paying end of the spectrum, Latinas are underrepresented at the top. They make up just 1% of jobs in engineering and computing, the two highest-paying STEM fields.
Education is another factor in the gender pay gap. According to The Hechinger Report, Hispanic or Latino workers are much less likely to have a college degree than are either white or Black workers. However, while more education helps increase women’s earnings, it still doesn’t close the gender pay gap. Latinas are paid less than white and Asian women are, even when they have the same educational credentials.
As part of the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority, Hispanic or Latino people are an increasingly influential constituency in the United States. Already accounting for 17% of the U.S. population, they are expected to make up nearly one-third of the country by 2060—an increasingly powerful and fast-growing voting bloc.
It will take concerted effort to close the gap—but we can do it. We need to expand educational opportunities and address biases and inequities within the education system; advance equal pay laws and practices, including the federal Paycheck Fairness Act, laws in states and employer practices; and expand how we recruit and train for jobs and promotion pathways.