Black Women Lead Families but still Lag behind in Jobs and Wealth
Jobs data were released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The economy added 209,000 jobs in July, with 117,000 (56%) of them going to women. Overall unemployment remained unchanged at 4.0% but these numbers mask large disparities for women of color and Black women in particular.
On the cusp of Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, it is critical that we continue to examine the discrimination that keeps Black women earning lower wages despite their efforts to catch up Research shows that at the current rate, it could take Black families 228 years to close the Black–white family wealth gap. In comparison, it will take Latino families 84 years to catch up to white families. In fact, the Black-white wage gap is the highest its been since 1979. In too many cases, this situation is dire as 23 percent of Black women and 1 in 3 Black children live in poverty.
So much of the burden to close the wealth gap falls on Black women. So what is the complete economic picture for Black women? What prevents them from earning fair wages and closing the gap? Here’s what you need to know:
- Black women continue to experience higher unemployment rates. The unemployment rate for Black women was 6.5 percent last month, the lowest it has been since June 2007, just six months before the start of the Great Recession. However, the unemployment rate for Black women was still nearly twice the rate of white men. While the unemployment rate for Black women continues to bounce back, our research shows white men continue to recover faster from the Great Recession.
- Black women have higher labor force participation rates. While Black women experience higher unemployment rates, they have higher participation rates than white women. This has historically been the case for Black women whose participation rate has outpaced that of white women’s since 1972 –the earliest year we have available for Black women. In July, the labor force participation for Black women was 62.5 percent and 57.9 percent for white women. Eighty percent of Black women are breadwinners so Black families are relying more heavily on women’s earnings than in other families.
- Black women continue to experience a large wage gap. Black women who work full time year round make just 63 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. This means that Black women have to work 19 months to make the same amount white, non-Hispanic men made in just 12 months. This wage gap has persisted for decades and exists at every education level indicating no matter how hard Black women work, they still are not compensated fairly.
- Black women hold multiple jobs at higher rates. Women overall are more likely than men to have multiple jobs according to the most recent job report. However, recent research shows that the number of Black women who have multiple jobs has increased over the last decade. This is important because Black women are not only struggling to find jobs –they are also struggling to find jobs that pay fair wages.
- Black women are single mothers at higher rates than white women. Black women are 2.5 times more likely to be single mothers than white women. In fact, more than 6 in 10 (62 percent) of Black women are raising children as single mothers. But this doesn’t mean that Black fathers are absent. Many Black families are involuntarily and systematically separated. And studies show that Black fathers are at least as involved or in some case more involved as other men. Black families rely heavily on women’s earnings but that doesn’t break down all the obstacles these women face, such as earning lower wages, having trouble finding jobs, struggling to pay for child care and being heads of households.
Black women lead their families and they want to work. Despite this, in too many cases they work hard but are still left behind. Although employment rates for Black women are improving, the wealth gap is not closing anywhere near fast enough. We cannot afford to wait 228 years to catch up.