57 Cents to the Dollar: The Wage Gap for Latinas Is Hurting Our Communities

Latinas should not have to work nearly 10 months longer to catch up to white men. We must commit to ending caregiving penalties for women, especially Latinas, and low-wage workers.

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Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez attends a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration in October 2019. (Instagram)

Thursday, Oct. 21, marks Latina Equal Pay Day—but it’s not a cause for celebration. It marks 10 months into 2021: the time it has taken for Latinas in America to catch up to the earnings which white men achieved at the end of 2020, for an equal amount of work. This should outrage all Americans.

As we move closer to equal pay for equal work, we must not forget that for Latinas and other women of color, the wage gap is the most dramatic, hindering our economy and leaving millions of working families behind.  

With a wage gap of 57 cents, Latinas should not have to work nearly 10 months longer to catch up to white men. For Latina mothers, the wage gap is even worse as they receive only 46 cents for every dollar white fathers are paid.

The COVID-19 pandemic laid bare the harsh reality that while many Latina frontline workers are deemed “essential,” they are not being fairly compensated for their work—even while putting their health and safety on the line. 

Beyond the obvious injustice of unequal pay for Latina’s equal work in this country, we know that Latinas are doing the work upon which states like New York desperately rely to keep moving. This is especially true when it comes to caregiving. Roughly one in five child care workers and over a quarter of domestic caregiving workers in America are Latinas. Latinas ensure the next generation of children can grow, learn and thrive, and that the 10 thousand Americans who turn 65 every day will have the care they deserve to age safely and with dignity. 

(Courtesy of Hispanic Star)

This is why in addition to ensuring equal pay, we must invest more in the care economy by supporting caregivers, including by increasing federal investment in childcare workers and early child education. 

The poverty rates for Latinas and Black women are over 50 percent higher compared to other women workers in the child care workforce. Hispanics who work in domestic labor have significantly higher poverty rates as well. These hardworking women of color are the backbone of the early education sector—but they’re not paid a living wage for the critical service they provide to families across the country. With a full investment in childcare, wages for Latino childcare workers would go up by 24 percent.

Investing in child care would also increase the accessibility and affordability of child care for all families, and would have an outsized impact on Latinas mothers in particular, who would see a net increase in their income over the course of their lifetime—Latina moms with two children would see an additional $115,000 in earnings and savings.

On Latina Equal Pay Day, we must commit to ending caregiving penalties for women, especially Latinas, and low-wage workers by investing in accessible and affordable child, elder and disability care and creating a federal paid leave program. We have the opportunity to achieve these priorities in the Build Back Better Act and we cannot pass up this moment to make a generational investment towards a more compassionate and fair country.

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About and

Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez is currently serving as representative for New York's 7th Congressional District. In the 117th Congress, she is the chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, a senior member of the Financial Services Committee and a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources.
Rosemary Rivera is the co-executive director for Citizen Action of New York. Rosemary started her career as an organizer in 2003 with Syracuse United Neighbors before moving to Rochester, New York. Rosemary became the education organizer for Citizen Action of New York and the Alliance for Quality Education, helping to win passage of the new foundation aid formula related to the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. Rosemary was born and raised in New York City and lives in Rochester, N.Y., where she also serves as a commissioner on the Rochester Housing Authority.