The COVID-19 pandemic underscored what we already knew: without public investments and public policies to shift how we do business, Black women face racism and sexism at every turn in our economy. Among full-time, year-round workers, Black women typically make only 67 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. This wage gap will typically cost Black women $1,891 per month, $22,692 per year, and $907,680 over a 40-year career. Moreover, the wage gap widens when part-year, and part-time workers are included: using this comparison, a Black woman typically makes 64 cents for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man makes.
This jarring gender and racial wage gap persists despite Black women’s sharply increasing educational attainment. One reason for this is that Black women face occupational segregation, meaning they are overrepresented in low-paid jobs. And in every common occupation, whether low-paid or not, Black women face racist and sexist wage gaps compared to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts.
In addition, Black women experience a gender wage gap compared to Black men: among full-time, year-round workers, Black women typically make just 93 cents for every dollar paid to Black men.
Note: The wage gaps presented here are based on data from 2021, the most recent annual data available. Note that the wage gap numbers for 2021 are affected by the massive job losses experienced in 2020 that disrupted the labor market.
The wage gap will typically cost a Black woman working full time, year round over $900,000 dollars over a lifetime of work.
A loss of thirty-three cents on the dollar experienced by Black women working full time, year round adds up over a month, a year, and a lifetime. Black women working full time, year round lose $1,891 each month or $22,692 each year. This annual loss to the wage gap could have paid for nine months of a family’s groceries, eight months of child care, and six months of rent. And over the course of a 40-year career, a Black woman starting her career today stands to lose $907,680 if we don’t close the gap. This money could be lifechanging for Black women and their families to use to invest in education, purchase a home, or save for retirement.
Black women experience a wage gap compared to white, non-Hispanic men at every education level, even when they have earned a graduate degree.
Educational attainment is often seen as a path to economic stability. Women account for more than half of college-educated adults in the U.S. labor force.10 And Black women’s educational attainment has steadily increased in recent decades; over four times as many Black women received Bachelor’s degrees during the 2020-21 than 1976-77 school year, compared to over 1.1 times as many white men.11 Despite these educational gains, Black women are still typically paid less than white, non-Hispanic men with less educational attainment.
- Black women working full-time, year-round who have a high school diploma are typically paid just 69 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men with the same diploma.
- Black women working full-time, year-round with a bachelor’s degree are typically paid $55,755, which is less than what white, non-Hispanic men working full-time, year-round with some college yet no degree are typically paid ($58,576).
- Black women working full-time, year-round typically have to earn a Master’s degree ($70,008) to make more than white, non-Hispanic men with just an Associate’s degree ($61,719).
- Also striking is the typical difference in wages between the most educated Black women and their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts—those with professional degrees and those with doctoral degrees. Among doctorate degree holders, a Black woman working full-time, year-round typically makes 65 cents for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man working full-time, year-round with the same education makes—an annual loss of $53,334, or more than $2.1 million over the course of a 40-year career. A Black woman working full-time, year-round with a professional degree is typically paid 66 cents for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man working full-time, year-round with the same education makes.
Black women face a wage gap in each of the ten occupations where they are most likely to work, many of which are low paid.
Despite Black women’s educational gains, continued structural barriers to degree attainment, coupled with sexism, racism, and lack of support for caregiving responsibilities lead to some Black women experiencing occupational segregation, often in low-paid jobs. Black women accounted for 6.0% of the workforce yet 8.9% of the low-paid workforce in the U.S. in 2021. Moreover, Black women experience pay inequity within the jobs they commonly hold.
- Nearly two in five Black women (39.8%) are employed in one of ten occupations; in all ten of the occupations, Black women working full time, year round are paid less than white, non-Hispanic men working full time, year round.
- Black women working full time, year round as cashiers and retail salespeople (the second most common occupation for Black women) make just 55 cents for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man working full time, year round makes.
- For Black women, the highest paying occupations among the ten most common are (1) registered nurses, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses and (2) elementary and middle school teachers and teaching assistants—but Black women working full time, year round in these roles are paid about 20% less than their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts working full time, year round in these roles.
- Among the ten most common occupations, the wage gap is smallest for Black women working full time, year round as nursing, home health, personal care, and psychiatric aides and orderlies; and as childcare workers, preschool and kindergarten teachers. These are among the lowest-paid jobs where Black women are most likely to be employed, making it difficult, if not impossible, for Black women in these jobs to achieve economic security. They also have large shares of women, meaning the wage gap may not be large since there are less men to compare to.
We can’t wait to close the wage gap for Black women.
Racism, sexism, and structural inequalities rob Black women of tens of thousands of dollars a year. We need public investments and public policies that allow Black women to succeed and thrive. It’s time to ensure Black women are paid what they are owed.