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NWLC Analysis Shows Striking Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Gender Wage Gaps

D.C. has smallest wage gap in country for women overall but ranks 49th for the worst gap among women of color compared to white, non-Hispanic men

April 04, 2013

(Washington, D.C.)  The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) today released a comprehensive analysis of the gender wage gap, revealing especially striking racial and ethnic disparities.  Women who work full time, year round are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts—a pay gap that translates to $11,084 in lost wages annually.  In Wyoming—the state with the worst wage gap for women overall—this figure is a mere 67 cents.  But the Center’s analysis shows that a wage gap of Wyoming’s magnitude, or worse, is the norm for women of color.  In 34 states and Washington, D.C., African-American women working full time, year round are paid less than two-thirds of what their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts are paid.  For Hispanic women, a similar disparity exists in all but four states. 

Washington, D.C. presents a particularly striking example.  Full-time, year-round female workers in D.C. earn 90 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn—the smallest wage gap in the country.  But when race and ethnicity are examined along with gender, the story shifts dramatically: African-American women working full time, year round in D.C. make just 53 cents for every dollar their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts make.  For Hispanic women—this figure is even worse at just 44 cents.  A similar disparity occurs in California for Hispanic women.  California has the 4th smallest overall wage gap, but ranks 51st—in last place—when the wage gap for Hispanic women is calculated; Hispanic women in California are paid just 43 cents for every dollar their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts are paid. 

The Center released its analysis in advance of Equal Pay Day on April 9, the day in 2013 when the average woman’s wages finally catch up to the average man’s earnings in 2012.

 “This June, fifty years will have passed since President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, and the gap in wages has barely budged—shrinking only 18 cents in five decades and remaining stagnant for the last decade,” said NWLC Co-President Marcia D. Greenberger.  “And for women of color, the situation is even worse.  At a time when families are relying increasingly on women’s wages, it’s especially critical to close this gap.  Equal pay is not an abstract principle for women and their families.  It means thousands of dollars of lost wages every year that cut deeply into household budgets and force many families to go without basic necessities.”  

The Center released an additional analysis of the wage gap highlighting the range of factors that contribute to it. The average wage gap translates to $11,084 in lost wages annually.  For African-American women, annual lost income climbs to $18,817 and for Hispanic women it increases to $23,298 when compared to white, non-Hispanic men.  An additional $11,084 in a woman’s paycheck would enable her to: pay the median cost of rent and utilities for a year and one month with almost $100 to spare, or pay for three years of average student loan payments with more than $60 to spare, or pay a year and five months of median child care costs for a four-year-old with over $300 to spare.

NWLC’s state-by-state analysis of the gender wage gap provides a detailed breakdown by race and ethnicity.  It shows that the wage gap exists in every state and is exacerbated for some racial groups:

  • It is notable that many of the states with the smallest wage gaps for African-American and Hispanic women are states where African Americans and Hispanics make up a relatively small share of the population (compared to other states). The opposite is also true – many of the states

where African-American and Hispanic women experience the largest wage gaps are also states where African Americans and Hispanics make up a relatively large share of the population.  

  • D.C. has the smallest wage gap for women overall. Women working full time, year round are paid 90 cents for every dollar paid to full-time, year-round male workers, followed by:  Vermont (87 cents), Maryland (86 cents), California (85 cents), Nevada (85 cents), and Rhode Island (85 cents).
  • Wyoming has the largest wage gap in the country for women overall.  Women working full time, year round in Wyoming are paid less than 67 cents for every dollar paid to full-time, year-round male workers, followed by:  Louisiana (69 cents), Utah (69 cents), West Virginia (71 cents),  North Dakota (73 cents), and Mississippi (74 cents).
  • African-American women have the smallest wage gap in Vermont. African-American women working full time, year round in Vermont are paid 79 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic full-time, year-round male workers, followed by:  Montana (79 cents), Idaho (76 cents), North Dakota (72 cents), Kentucky (71 cents), and Hawaii (70 cents).
  • African-American women have the largest wage gap in Louisiana. African-American women working full time, year round in Louisiana are paid 49 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic full-time, year-round male workers, followed by:  Utah (51 cents), D.C. (53 cents), Mississippi (55 cents), Alabama (57 cents), and South Carolina (57 cents).
  • Hispanic women have the smallest wage gap in Vermont. Hispanic women working full time, year round in Vermont are paid 72 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic full-time, year-round male workers, followed by:  Maine (69 cents), New Hampshire (69 cents), Montana (68 cents), North Dakota (65 cents), and Hawaii (64 cents).
  • Hispanic women have the largest wage gap in California. Hispanic women working full time, year round in California are paid 43 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic full-time, year-round male workers, followed by:  New Jersey (43 cents), D.C. (44 cents), Alabama (44 cents), Texas (45 cents), and Maryland (46 cents).

 

Policy solutions to shrink the wage gap include: strengthening equal pay laws by prohibiting retaliation against employees for discussing their pay; bringing the remedies for pay discrimination claims in line with the remedies for other types of discrimination and closing the loopholes in employer defenses to equal pay claims; raising the minimum wage; providing opportunities for women and girls to train for and enter into high-wage non-traditional jobs, and increasing the availability of quality, affordable child care.

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For more NWLC analysis of the wage gap and women’s economic status: