Latinas Cannot Afford to Wait for Change


That money can cover nine months of child care, six months of rent payments, and 14 months of family groceries. 

And that’s how much money the sexist and racist wage gap robs from Latinas every single year. 

October 5 is Latina Equal Pay Day, when we recognize the wide gap in pay between Latinas and white, non-Hispanic men.

The pay gap robs Latinas working full time, year-round of $2,538 per month, $30,450 per year, and $1,218,000 over a 40-year career.

These staggering losses are devastating for Latinas and their families—but especially in this current moment—as they continue to face extreme economic instability in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to research conducted by the National Women’s Law Center: 

  1. Latinas experience a wage gap compared to white, non-Hispanic men at every education level, and Latinas with a professional degree stand to lose nearly $2.5 million over their lifetime.  

The “American dream” has led too many Americans to believe that working hard and getting an education is the path to certain financial security and success. What this dream left out is the reality of racism and sexism in our country—classic! 

Even by obtaining higher education, Latinas are still having to outrun and outperform their male counterparts. Latinas have to earn a master’s degree ($71,210) so they can be paid more than white, non-Hispanic men with just an associate’s degree ($67,190). 

And some of the most educated Latinas have some of the most striking pay gaps compared to their white non-Hispanic men counterparts. Latinas with a professional degree stand to lose nearly $2.5 million to the wage gap over a 40-year career.   

  1. Latinas face a wage gap in each of the 10 occupations where they are most likely to work, many of which are low-paid occupations. 

Latinas experience occupational segregation due to sexism and racism and are often employed in low paid jobs, which is a driver of the wage gap. Of the 10 most common occupations for Latinas, seven pay a median hourly wage below $17. Low-wages heighten Latinas economic vulnerability, making it more difficult to make ends meet and contributing to economic insecurity. Almost one-third of Latinas (30.6%) would get a raise just by increasing the federal minimum wage to $17 per hour. 

Yet even within these low-paid jobs, Latinas continue to experience a wage gap. For example, Latinas who work full time, year-round as cashiers and retail salespeople were paid just 56 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-hispanic male counterparts. 

These sexists and racist wage gaps, in low-paid jobs and otherwise, do not only make it impossible for Latinas to afford their current expenses. They also mean that many Latinas cannot save enough to afford a down payment on a home, cannot afford higher education costs for them or their families, and cannot save for retirement.

Latinas deserve more. 

Congress must pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to strengthen our pay discrimination laws and the Raise the Wage Act, which would increase the federal minimum wage to $17 per hour and phase out the tipped minimum wage.  

Latina’s work has been undervalued for far too long, and they cannot afford to wait for change.