Resource

Equal Pay for Black Women

By: Brandie Temple and Jasmine Tucker

When comparing all men and women who work full time, year round in the United States, women are paid just 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts.  But the wage gap is even larger when looking specifically at Black women who work full time, year round—they are paid only 63 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.  This gap, which amounts to a loss of $21,001 a year, means that Black women have to work more than 19 months—until the very last day of July—to make as much as white, non-Hispanic men did in the previous 12-month calendar year.

Black women working full time, year round are typically paid only 63 cents for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts.

Black women experience a wage gap at every education level—even when they have earned graduate degrees.

  • Black women working full time, year round who have a high school degree, are typically paid only 63 cents for every dollar typically paid to white, non-Hispanic men with the same degree.
  • Black women without a high school diploma fare even worse, making just 60 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men without a high school diploma.
  • Pursuing higher education does little close to the wage gap. Black women with a bachelor’s degree are typically paid $46,694—just under what white, non-Hispanic men with only a high school degree are paid ($46,729).
  • Black women have to earn a Master’s degree to make slightly more ($56,072) than white, non-Hispanic men with just an Associate’s degree ($54,620).

Black women’s wage gap is wider among older women.

  • Among young people ages 15–24, working full time, year round, Black women typically make 81 cents for every dollar white, non-Hispanic men make—but the wage gap widens as Black women grow older. Among people working full time, year round in their prime working years—ages 25–44—Black women are paid just 65 cents.
  • Among older workers ages 45–64, Black women are paid just 61 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. These larger gaps mean that Black women are falling behind at the very time they need additional resources to invest in their families and save for a secure retirement.

Black women’s wage gap is substantially wider in certain states.

  • While Black women nationally are paid just 63 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, they can face even steeper wage gaps depending where they live. In Louisiana, the worst state for Black women’s wage equality, Black women typically are paid slightly less than half of what white, non-Hispanic men are paid.
  • Black women in Washington, D.C. have the third worst wage gap in the country, paid 53 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, even though Washington, D.C., has the smallest wage gap at just 14 cents when comparing the earnings of all women to the earnings of all men.

Black women have to work longer to keep up with white men.

  • Over the course of a 40-year career, the typical Black woman loses a staggering $840,040 to the wage gap. Assuming she and her male counterpart begin work at age 20, this huge wage gap means a Black woman would typically have to work until she is 83 years old to catch up to what a white, non-Hispanic man has been paid by age 60.
  • Depending on what state she lives in, a Black woman can face gaps that exceed what a typical Black woman loses nationwide. In nine states, Black women would lose more than $1 million over a 40-year career as compared to white, non-Hispanic men. These women have to work decades past white, non-Hispanic men to be paid equally.

 Black women’s wage gap has persisted for decades.

  • In 1967, the earliest year for which data are available, a Black woman working full time, year round typically made only 43 cents for every dollar paid to white men.
  • By 2015, the most recent year for which data are available, that gap had narrowed by 20 cents, but Black women working full time, year round were still only paid 63 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

Black women are overrepresented in low wage jobs, and underrepresented in high wage jobs.

  • Black women make up 10 percent of the low wage workforce, or jobs that typically pay less than $11 per hour, or about $22,880 annually, while they make up just 6.2 percent of the overall workforce.
  • Black women’s share of the high wage workforce—jobs that pay more than $48 per hour, or about $100,000 annually, is less than half their representation in the overall workforce. They make up only 2.7 percent of workers in these jobs, but 6.2 percent of the overall workforce.

Whether they work in low wage or high wage occupations, Black women are typically paid less than white, non-Hispanic men in the same occupations.

  • Among workers in low wage jobs, Black women make just 60 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. Black women who work full time, year round in these occupations are typically paid about $21,700 annually, compared to the $36,000 typically paid to white, non-Hispanic men in these occupations. This gap translates to a loss of $14,300 each year to the wage gap—more than enough to pay for an entire year’s worth of rent or more than a year and a half of childcare costs.
  • Among workers in high wage occupations—such as lawyers, engineers, and physicians or surgeons—Black women are paid 64 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men in the same occupations. Black women who work full time, year round in these occupations are typically paid about $70,000, compared to the $110,000 typically paid to white, non-Hispanic men in these same jobs. This amounts to a staggering annual loss of $40,000 each year, or $1.6 million dollars over a 40-year career.

Black women experience a wage gap across occupations.

  • Occupation does not explain away Black women’s wage gap. For example, Black women working as physicians and surgeons—a traditionally male, high wage occupation—make 54 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men working as physicians and surgeons.
  • Black women working as customer service representatives—a mid-wage, female dominated occupation—make 75 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men working as customer service representatives.
  • Black women working as construction laborers—a traditionally male, mid-wage occupation—make 81 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men working as construction laborers.
  • Black women working as personal care aides—a heavily female, low wage occupation—make 87 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men working as personal care aides.

Black women experience a wage gap even in occupations where they are overrepresented.

  • More than two in five Black women (44.8 percent) are employed in one of ten occupations; in every one of those occupations, Black women are typically paid less than white, non-Hispanic men.
  • Among the ten most common occupations for Black women, two of those occupations – cashiers and retail salespeople and janitors, building cleaners, maids, and housekeepers – typically pay Black women a very low wage – less than $10 per hour – while they typically pay white, non-Hispanic men substantially more.
  • Four of these common occupations typically pay Black women less than $12 per hour while none of them typically pays white, non-Hispanic men less than $12.
  • Even in better paying jobs where Black women make up a good share of the workforce, such as pre-K, K-12, and special education teachers, and counselors and social workers, Black women are paid less than their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts. However, Black women who work as Registered Nurses (RN) or Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN)—where women overall hold nearly 90 percent of jobs—fare better and make close to what men in these same jobs make.

Union membership is especially important for closing the wage gap for Black women.

  • Among full time workers, Black women who belong to a union are paid nearly 30 percent more than Black women who are not.
  • The wage gap between Black women and white men who work full time and who are union workers is more than 20 percent smaller than the wage gap for non-union workers (28 cents for union workers, compared to 33 cents for non-union workers).
  • Black women are the most likely group of women to be union members and yet in 2016, just 12.1 percent of employed Black women were members of unions.