March 24 marked Equal Pay Day for all women. The day was officially established in 1996 by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) as a symbolic representation of how far into this year women must work to catch up to what men made in the previous year. Women working full-time, year-round are typically paid just 82 cents for every dollar paid to men. That is just the statistic for women in general, but the gender wage gap is much wider for minority women, especially Latinas.
The gender wage gap for Latinas in the U.S.
For Latina women in the U.S., Equal Pay Day is not until October 21 this year, meaning it will take until October 2021 for Latinas to have earned the same amount as white men did in 2020. To put it another way, a Latina woman must work 23 months to earn what white men earn in just 12 months.
Latinas account for close to $1 trillion in US buying power, but earn on average only 55 cents to the dollar paid to white, non-hispanic men. Additionally, the pay gap widens for educated Latinas. Latinas are pursuing higher education more than ever before but education does not eliminate the pay gap. In fact, the gap is largest for Latinas with a bachelor’s degree, who earn 37% less than white men on average.
All around, Latinas tend to make less than everyone, with Latina Equal Pay Day being the last Equal Pay Day group celebrated each year.
If the gender pay gap does not improve, Latinx women have a lot to lose: $28,036 every year, and $1,121,440 over the course of a 40-year career. To catch up, Latinas in New Jersey and California would have to work until ages 115 and 114 respectively.
In twelve states – Alabama, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, and Washington – Latinas lose more to the wage gap than they are paid in a year.
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The states with the largest lifetime losses due to the wage gap include California ($1,708,160), Connecticut ($1,499,800), Illinois ($1,261,040), Maryland ($1,554,400), Massachusetts ($1,369,000), New Jersey ($1,760,840), Rhode Island ($1,196,360), Texas ($1,389,800), Washington ($1,300, 960), and Washington, D.C. ($1,953,000).
Closing the gap for an equal future
The gender wage gap has narrowed slightly over time but only by a few pennies over several decades. Currently the average pay for women in general is 82 cents per dollar earned by a man. A decade ago in 2011, that number was 77 cents, and in 1996 when the first Equal Pay Day was established, the number was around 74 cents. If this trend continues, the wage gap will not close for another 38 years or until around 2059.
For Black women the date is over a century away. And for Hispanic women it will be over two centuries before the wage gap closes if we do nothing to change the trend.
The first steps to closing the wage gap is to push for legislative action. The Paycheck Fairness Act is just one of many acts that will take important steps towards the goal of ending pay discrimination. For instance, it will ban employers from seeking salary history — removing a common false justification for under-paying women and people of color — and it will hold employers accountable who engage in systemic discrimination. The bill will also work to ensure transparency and reporting of disparities in wages, because the problem will never be fixed if workers are kept in the dark about the fact that they are not being paid fairly.
Raise the Wage Act is another legislative measure that will help close the wage gap in the long run. The Raise the Wage Act of 2021 would increase the minimum wage annually from its current level ($7.25) to $15 by 2025, after which the minimum wage would be indexed to median hourly wage growth. With Latinas overrepresented in low-wage work, the Raise the Wage Act would give 32% of working Latinas a significant raise.
Resources for more information and further learning on the gender wage gap: