In 2012 women working full-time, year-round made only 77 cents for every dollar that men made — resulting in a wage gap of 23 cents. This means that there has not been progress in closing the gender wage gap in this country in over a decade. But for women of color, the situation is even worse: in 2012 African-American and Hispanic women working full time, year round made only 64 cents and 54 cents respectively for every dollar that non-Hispanic white men made. The persistence of the wage gap is particularly harmful to minority women and their families.
What’s more, when it comes to the wage gap experienced by women of color, not all states are created equal. Today the U.S. Census Bureau released new data from the American Community Survey which demonstrate that while women of color experience a significant wage gap in every state, some states are lagging especially far behind.
The data also reveal that some of the same states that have the narrowest gender wage gaps overall are the ones where fair pay remains most elusive for women of color. For example, women working full-time, year-round in Washington, D.C. are paid approximately 90 cents for every dollar paid to men, which results in the smallest overall wage gap in the whole country at nearly 10 cents. However, when race and ethnicity are taken into account the story changes dramatically — African-American and Hispanic women in D.C. experience the 4th and 9th largest wage gaps respectively compared to non-Hispanic white men. Likewise, women working full-time, year-round in California are paid nearly 84 cents for every dollar paid to men, which gives the state the 6th smallest overall wage gap at just over 16 cents — but at the same time, Hispanic women in California experience the 2nd largest wage gap compared to non-Hispanic white men — more than 57 cents.
One factor contributing to the large wage gap experienced by women of color is that they are disproportionately likely to be paid the minimum wage — in 2012 African-American and Hispanic women were about twice as likely as white men to hold jobs paying at or below the federal minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage is one important step toward ensuring that women of color across the country are paid fairly. Other critical steps to address this problem include strengthening enforcement of pay discrimination laws, improving women’s access to high-paying occupations, ensuring that pregnant workers are not forced off the job during pregnancy, and providing workers with the flexibility they need to fulfill caregiving responsibilities.
NWLC is in the process of reviewing all the newest state-level data about wage gaps experienced by women of color. Check back soon for more in-depth analysis.