The Wage Gap is Shocking — and Latinas in Particular Suffer from it

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Latina and child. Stock photo.

It’s almost Thanksgiving, and while our thoughts may traditionally turn to “turkey, trimmings and time with family,” it’s important to acknowledge another important day.

November 20, 2019 is “Equal Pay Day” for Latinas, an acknowledgment of just how far into the year Hispanic women had to work to earn the equivalent of what white, non-Hispanic men earned the year before. Shocking? It should be.

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As becomes obvious from the above infographic from the National Women’s Law Center, Asian women earn the closest to parity with white, non-Hispanic men, followed by white, non-Hispanic women, followed by Black women, Native American women, and last of all by Hispanic women.

Nationwide, more than 11 million Latinas are in the workforce, but they face the largest wage gap among women,, according to a fact sheet from Unidos US.

“Across the board, women of color are more likely than white women to be shunted into the lowest-earning occupations in the service sector and in sales and office jobs. This trend is particularly pronounced for Hispanic women. Among working women in 2014, 62% of Hispanics were clustered into just two job groups — service occupations and sales and office occupations. This is compared with 57% of blacks, 51% of whites, and 44% of Asians in the same job categories.

In 2014, only 35% of black women and 26% of Hispanic women were employed in higher-paying management, professional, and related jobs — compared with 48% of Asian women and 43% of white women.”

Source: Fisher, M. (2015). Women of color and the gender wage gap. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress.

The average annual income for Latinas in the U.S. is $32,002, compared to $60,388 for white, non-Hispanic men, according to Unidos US, “meaning the wage gap costs Latinas $28,386 per year(!)” (emphasis mine.)

“Women are the sole or co-breadwinner in approximately two-thirds of families in America. So when women bring home less than they have rightfully earned, it hurts women, their families and our economy as a whole,” says Diane Sánchez, President and CEO of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Here in Texas, the #2 state in sheer numbers of Latinas in the workforce, Latinas earn approximately 44 cents on the dollar, compared to white, non-Hispanic men, again according to Unidos US, using U.S. Census Bureau/American Community Survey data from 2012–2016. That figure, while profoundly disturbing, is not even the lowest in the U.S. Latina women in California (43 cents) and New Jersey (42 cents) actually earn less.

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What this chasm-like wage gap adds up to, of course, is a gigantic loss in potential earnings over the course of a Latina’s lifetime. That’s why it’s no surprise that Latinas nationally are more worried than other women about being able to afford their rent or mortgage, being able to care for their relatives as they age, about someone in their household losing their job, having access to housing that is affordable, having access to a flexible work schedule, and access to paid family and medical leave, among other concerns, according to “What Women Want, 2018,” a study commissioned by YWCA USA.

Here in San Antonio, the seventh largest city in the U.S. by population, Latinas make up a large portion of the workforce in this predominantly Hispanic city. But wage equity is becoming a hotter topic, both as the YWCA San Antonio focuses its efforts thanks to a United Way of San Antonio grant to create a public awareness campaign, a council of businesses who support it, and ultimately a consulting practice around this topic — and through elected officials’ efforts to address wage equity at the city level. Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales (District 5) sponsored a City Council Resolution (CCR) about wage equity in the City, and Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (District 3) came on as a co-sponsor. The CCR should come up for a vote in March.

In the meantime, this week San Antonio plays host to the National League of Citiesannual conference. As elected officials and municipal employees from all over the country come here for the summit, we hope they see a city committed to establishing wage equity for all its residents, in addition to all the usual beauty, amenities, and favorable weather. We could be the first city in the country to take on this cause — but as we can see from Latina Equal Pay Day, there’s no limit to the benefits it could bring, in raising the standard of living for so many in our community.

Note: If you’re in San Antonio for DreamWeek 2020, we’ll be hosting a public discussion, “Pay Her What She’s Worth: A Conversation about Wage Equity,” at the YWCA San Antonio on Tuesday, January 14th. Details are here.

We are on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.

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