This article was first published by the American Association of University Women. Today, Oct. 15, marks the length of time Latinas must work into the year to earn what white, non-Hispanic men earn in one calendar year.
How would you like to have your paycheck cut in half? Or feel double the strain when paying for groceries, gas, college tuition, doctor appointments, you name it? That’s the case for many Hispanic and Latina women in the United States.
Thanks to the gender pay gap, Latinas are paid 54 percent of what non-Hispanic white men are paid. That means it takes Latinas almost an entire extra year of full-time, year-round work in order to be paid what the average white man took home by December 31. Think about how that adds up over a lifetime, and we’re talking about losing a substantial chunk of change—change that could have greatly aided Latinas and their families.
As AAUW’s research shows, women of every race and ethnicity experience a gender pay gap. All these groups are paid only a portion of white, non-Hispanic men’s earnings: Asian American women (90 percent); white, non-Hispanic women (78 percent); African American women (64 percent); Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander women (62 percent); and American Indian and Alaska Native women (59 percent). Altogether, women working full time, year round in the United States in 2014 were paid an average of only 79 percent of what white, non-Hispanic men are paid.
Choices around occupation help us understand some of the pay gap, but not all of it. In 2014, Latina and Hispanic women made up about one-third of the U.S. service industry, a sector in which workers are often paid by the hour and usually at the lower end of the pay scale. Research shows that women are underpaid compared to men in nearly every job in food service, even after accounting for tips. Hispanic women and men also account for nearly 15 percent of sales and office occupations and 37 percent of building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations, all of which are low-paying jobs. In addition to being overrepresented at the low-paying end of the spectrum, Hispanic women are underrepresented at the top. Hispanic women make up just 1 percent of jobs in engineering and computing, the two highest-paying STEM fields.
Education is another factor in the gender pay gap. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Hispanic and Latino workers are much less likely to have a college degree than are either whites or African Americans. However, while more education helps increase women’s earnings, it still doesn’t close the gender pay gap. Hispanic women are paid less than white and Asian women are, even when they have the same educational credentials.
As part of the nation’s largest ethnic or racial minority, Latinas are an increasingly influential constituency in the United States. Already accounting for 17 percent of the U.S. population, Hispanic women and men are expected to make up nearly one-third of the country by 2060—an increasingly powerful and fast-growing voting bloc.
With the 2016 presidential election approaching, it’s no surprise that candidates are already vying for the Latino vote. Our advice to politicians is twofold: Work on those equal pay platforms, and get pushing for the Paycheck Fairness Act. After all, how would they feel if they were given only 54 percent of their campaign donations?
Graphics via AAUW
Renee Davidson is AAUW’s social media manager, a feminist writer and an activist living in D.C. Her work has been published by Salon, Bitch, PolicyMic, Fem2pt0 and more. Follow her at @reneetheorizes.