It’s a familiar adage that black Americans have to work twice as hard to get half as far as their white counterparts—and that black women, oppressed by the intersecting forces of sexism and racism, have to struggle even more. Now, a sweeping new report from the nonprofit Institute for Women’s Policy Research, funded by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, provides the data to back this up.
Released Wednesday, the report shows black women working more and getting less in return across all areas of American life. Black women voted at higher rates than any other group in 2008 and 2012 (and in 2014, more than any other group except white men and women)—but they remain drastically underrepresented in both state and national politics. The share of black women with a college degree has increased by almost 24 percent since the early 2000s, but they graduated with more debt and worse prospects than white students. And black women participate in the workforce at higher rates than other women, yet they’re among the most likely to live in poverty, second only to indigenous women.
In part, this is because black women have remained trapped in the worst-paying sectors of the economy—caretaking and service jobs—while white women have ascended to better-compensated professions. This is no coincidence, as Alicia Garza, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement and the special projects director at the NDWA, writes in the forward to the report. “Without Black women’s labor inside of white households, white women would not have been able to break (some) of the barriers of sexism that relegated the value of women’s contributions to the sphere of the home,” she writes. “The result is a racialized economy where Black women are losing ground.”