Study: Gender wage gap worse for African-American and Hispanic women

People yell during a protest for better wages for fast food workers

People yell during a protest for better wages for fast food workers outside a McDonald's restaurant in Harlem on April 4, 2013 in New York City. Organizers said hundreds of fast food workers were expected to walk off the job today from establishments including Wendy's, McDonald's and KFC to rally for better pay and union rights. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) has released a new analysis detailing the significant gap in wages earned by African-American women and Latinas compared to white, non-Hispanic women and men.

The November 2013 report, Closing the Wage Gap is Crucial for Women of Color and Their Families, states that while on average, women earn 77 cents for every dollar paid to men, black women earn only 64 cents per dollar, and Latinas earn 54 cents.

Based on the most recent Census data, the analysis covers women working in full time, year round employment across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“The current economy has left women of color in precarious economic circumstances and they continue to encounter substantial barriers to advancement,” the analysis states. “African-American and Hispanic women are more likely than white men to work in jobs that pay at or below minimum wage, and they have also experienced slower wage growth than women overall.”

Black women and Latinas face earnings disparities

Top findings show that even in states in which white, non-Hispanic women face the lowest gender wage gap, black women and Latinas fare far worse in terms of earnings.

“Washington, D.C.’s gender wage gap is the smallest in the nation – but the wage gaps for Hispanic and African-American women in D.C. rank among the ten worst in the country,” a release for the report asserts.

States with the worst wage gaps for these women of color include New Jersey, Alabama and Utah.

African-American women earn approximately 83 cents for every dollar paid to a white woman, while Latinas garner 69 cents for each dollar earned by her white female counterpart.

Findings also show that women of color earn less than men of color as a group. Both Latinas and black women earn 88 cents per dollar earned by Latino males and black men respectively.

Reason for gender and race wage gaps

These economic inequalities, which NWLC states have been persistent since the ’70s, are related to the fact that women of color tend to hold low income jobs at a higher rate than men, while being paid less than men in similar positions.

The result is a potential cumulative loss in lifetime earning capacity of more than $1 million for these women depending on the state. Black women face a possible deficit this high in five states and Washington, D.C., according to the report, while Latinas face this potential disparity in 21 states and the nation’s capital.

Average annual wage gaps amounted to income losses of $18,650 for black women and $24,111 for Latinas in 2012 compared to white male earnings.

Impact on communities of color

In addition, the gender wage gap reduces opportunities for women of color to rise into the middle class.

In 2012, “a white, non-Hispanic man working full time, year round who was a relatively low-wage earner for his racial group and sex earned $35,000 per year,” which was “an amount sufficient to bring a family of four well above the poverty line,” the report states.

However, black and Latina women were found to be unable to earn enough to bring a family of four above the poverty line through low wage occupations during the same time frame.

These phenomena are linked to higher poverty rates for women of color, particularly for single mothers in communities of color, where black women and Latinas are more likely to head a household.

Closing the wage gap: Crucial for women of color

As a result, 31 percent of African-American women and 28 percent of Latinas reported having either a “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” time buying food for their families in the wake of the Great Recession, according to reports referenced in the NWLC analysis. This is true for only 22 percent of white women.

The gender wage gap significantly impacts women of color more profoundly than white women, NWLC concludes.

“Closing the wage gap is, therefore, particularly important for African-American and Hispanic women, who are already more likely to have lower incomes and to be in poverty than virtually all other groups,” the analysis states. “Although enforcement of the Equal Pay Act and other civil rights laws has helped narrow the wage gap over time, addressing the significant disparity that remains is critical for women and their families.”

Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.