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 54% of what non-Hispanic white men were paid in 2021. 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.
That statistic compares all Latinas who took home earnings in 2021, including seasonal and part-time workers, to all white men workers. Previous pay-gap calculations used data drawn only from full-time, year-round workers. However, AAUW and other equity organizations recently adopted a more inclusive methodology to better understand how the gender pay gap impacts diverse communities. During the pandemic, millions of women were forced out of the workforce due to layoffs and increased caregiving demands, with many women of color sustaining the greatest economic losses.
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.
People’s occupational choices help us understand some of the pay gap. Latinas account for nearly 12% of sales and related occupations and 30% of service occupations, all of which are low-paying jobs. Research shows that women are underpaid compared to men in nearly every job in food service, even after accounting for tips.
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. Thirty-six percent of Latinos aged 18–24 enrolled in college in 2020, decreasing the enrollment gap between Latino students and white students to five percentage points, compared to a gap of 11 percentage points in 2010. 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 19% 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