Today, on Latina Equal Pay Day, we are encouraged to think critically about the gender wage gap and the challenges Latina women face in the labor market. In 2019, the average Latina earned only 55.4 cents for every dollar earned by the average White non-Latino man. Latinas earn less than White men in every state, and there are no instances in which the gap is smaller than 34 percent. At the current rate of progress, Latinas are not projected to reach equal pay until 2220.
Latinas are more than twice as likely to work in lower-paying service jobs than White women. These jobs often involve high exposure to COVID-19, yet are less likely to provide benefits. Latinas are the racial/ethnic group with the lowest health insurance coverage rates and the lowest likelihood of having paid time off. The lack of benefits also adds challenges related to caregiving costs and access to child care. At the same time, Latinas are particularly vulnerable to unemployment due to their high representation in the retail and service sectors.
These challenges compound existing racial wealth gaps, as the median net worth of Latinx households in 2016 was only one-eighth of the net worth of white households and Latinx families are 1.7 times more likely than Whites to live in poverty.
Leveling the playing field for Latinas, and holding employers accountable, will mean more income for families, increased opportunities for Latinx youth, and greater economic security. California – the state with the highest wage gap for Latinas compared to White men, and with the third highest share Latinx population—passed new legislation to tackle the wage gap, requiring larger employers to provide intersectional data by job category and pay band beginning in 2021.
While discrimination in hiring, pay, and promotions is not the only reason for the wage gap, forcing employers to scrutinize the outcomes of their employment decisions is a crucial step toward eliminating the pay gap and providing Latinas, and other women of color, fair and equitable employment opportunities.