Inequality: the Race and Gender Gap

July 28, 2017

By Valerie Wilson, Janelle Jones, Kayla Blado, and Elise Gould

Economic Policy Institute

Black women have to work 7 months into 2017 to be paid the same as white men in 2016

The full article, with dramatic charts, is here: http://epi.org/132599

July 31st is Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, the day that marks how long into 2017 an African American woman would have to work in order to be paid the same wages as her white male counterpart was paid last year. Black women are uniquely positioned to be subjected to both a racial pay gap and a gender pay gap. In fact, on average, black women workers are paid only 67 cents on the dollar relative to white non-Hispanic men, even after controlling for education, years of experience, and location.

Why does this wage gap exist for black women?

Pay inequity directly touches the lives of black women in at least three distinct ways. Since few black women are among the top 5 percent of earners in this country, they have experienced the relatively slow wage growth that characterizes growing class inequality along with the vast majority of other Americans. But in addition to this class inequality, they also experience lower pay due to gender and race bias.

In the last 37 years, gender wage gaps have unquestionably narrowed—due in part to men’s wages decreasing—while racial wage gaps have gotten worse. Despite the large gender disadvantage faced by all women, black women were near parity with white women in 1979. However in 2016, white women’s wages grew to 76 percent of white men’s, compared to 67 percent for black women relative to white men—a racial difference of 9 percentage points. The trend is going the wrong way—progress is slowing for black women.

Myth #1: If black women worked harder, they’d get the pay they deserve.

The truth: Black women work more hours than white women. They have increased work hours 18.4 percent since 1979, yet the wage gap relative to white men has grown.

Over the last several decades, both black and white workers have increased their number of annual hours in response to slow wage growth. While men typically work more hours than women, the data reveal that growth in work hours, for both whites and blacks, was heavily driven by the growth of work hours among women. The increase in annual hours is particularly striking for workers in the bottom 40 percent of the wage distribution, where it has been driven almost entirely by women.

Among lower paid workers, the growth in annual hours is larger for black women than for white women and men. This trend is particularly striking for the lowest wage workers. In the bottom fifth, annual hours for black women grew 30.1 percent (from 1,162 hours/year to 1,511 hours/year) between 1979 and 2015 compared to a 27.6 percent increase (from 1,086 hours/year to 1,386 hours/year) for white women and a 3.2 percent increase (from 1,553 hours/year to 1,602 hours/year) for white men.

Working moms are significant contributors to this trend—half of all African American female workers are moms, as are 55.3 percent of Hispanic working women and 44.5 percent of white female workers – although women often face a wage penalty when taking time out of the workforce to care for children. While all moms are working more hours per year and contributing more to their households financially, African American working moms are uniquely central to the economic well-being of their families.

Even when faced with the added demands on their time that come with having a family, in 2015, married black women with children worked over 200 hours more per year than married white or Hispanic women with children, and 339 hours more than black single mothers. Married black working moms also worked 132 hours more per year than childless non-elderly black working women.

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