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The Wage Gap for Women of Color Widened in 2017

The Census Bureau released income data for 2017 this week, and while there was some good news (like a 1.8 percent increase in median household income from the previous year) not everyone has cause to celebrate. The gender wage gap for all women remained stagnant in 2017, holding firmly at 80 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. This lingering pay disparity is frustrating, especially for those who have been fighting for parity in pay for decades. However, what’s even more disheartening is that the gender wage gap widened for women of color.

In 2017, Asian women were paid 85 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, but the gap is substantially larger for many communities of Asian women. Black women were paid 61 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men; Native women were paid 58 cents; and Latinx women were paid 53 cents. When compared with the 2016 data, the wage gaps for Native and Latinx women widened by a penny, while the gaps for Black and Asian women widened by 2 pennies. In other words, women of color got paid less for doing the same or similar jobs as their white, male counterparts than they did the previous year.

While a few pennies might not seem like much, they add up big time. If the wage gap remains the same, women of color stand to lose a lot of their hard-earned money over the course of their 40-year careers:

  Annual losses to the 2017 wage gap Career losses to the 2017 wage gap
Asian women $9,010 $360,400
Black women $23,653 $946,120
Native women $24,443 $977,720
Latinx women $28,386 $1,135,440

These annual and lifetime losses are staggering and prevent women of color from pulling themselves and their families out of poverty, much less doing the important work of building wealth by saving for retirement, purchasing a home, and paying off consumer and educational debt. Less money in their pockets every month equates to fewer resources for groceries, rent, child care, and health insurance premiums. These pennies add up to a big problem for working women of color who face systemic barriers to creating economic security. Closing the gender wage gap for all women should be a priority for all legislators, policymakers, and employers.

It's time for change, and we must act now. Time's up.