November 30 marks Native Women’s Equal Pay Day. Native women have one of the lowest earnings ratios compared to non-Hispanic White men. In 2022, all Native women with earnings were paid 54.7 cents per dollar and Native women who worked full-time year-round were paid 58.9 cents per dollar compared to non-Hispanic White men.
IWPR’s analysis of trends in earnings over the last two decades finds that all Native women with earnings won’t reach pay equity with non-Hispanic White men until 2144, and until 2498—over 400 years—for Native women who worked full-time year-round. Many Native women are breadwinners for their families, and many of them are single mothers. Unequal pay not only harms Native women but also their families, both current and future generations.
Native American women are paid less in every state. In 2021, all Native women with earnings made the lowest median annual earnings in Minnesota, earning 39.5 cents per dollar compared to non-Hispanic White men. Native women had the highest median annual earnings in Missouri, earning 75.2 cents per dollar. Native women who worked full-time year-round made the lowest median annual earnings in California, earning 52.0 cents per dollar. Native women who worked full-time year-round earned the most in Arkansas, at 83.1 cents per dollar, compared to non-Hispanic White men.
Notes: Workers 15 years and older. White alone, not Hispanic. American Indian and Alaskan Native alone, not Hispanic. N/A indicates insufficient sample size. Full-time is at least 35 hours per week; full-year is at least 50 weeks per year.
Source: IWPR analysis of 2017-2021 American Community Survey microdata (Integrated Public Use Microdata Series, Version 13.0).
Let’s Break this Down
Due to historical and institutional discrimination, Native women face unique and distinct challenges. Compared to other racial and ethnic groups, Native women are more likely to experience low educational attainment, higher levels of violence, and discrimination in the workplace.
Financial barriers and lack of educational opportunities can prevent many Native women from obtaining a college degree. Those who live on tribal reservations are less likely to attend college, and Native women, in general, are less likely than other racial and ethnic groups to graduate if they do attend college.
Many Native women experience high levels of violence, especially on tribal reservations. More than four out of five Native women report experiencing psychological, sexual, or physical violence in their lifetime, which can have long-lasting educational, economic, and career consequences for survivors.
Native women are disproportionately represented in service occupations. These jobs are often underpaid and lack benefits, such as health insurance and retirement contributions. Native women are also more likely to face discrimination in pay and promotion and experience sexual harassment. Discrimination in the workplace makes it difficult for Native women to climb the economic ladder of mobility.
These issues and challenges that Native women face, along with many others, are unlikely to be solved until the pay gap is closed. Native American and Alaskan Native women face intersectional challenges; therefore, intersectional policies are needed to address their wage gap. Native American women need affordable and improved access to quality education, health care access, and anti-discriminatory practices.