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Aug. 27, 2019, 11:08 a.m. EDT

Why some women are losing out on $1 million over their careers

The National Women’s Law Center, citing U.S. Census Bureau data, found that some women are more underpaid than others

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By Andrew Keshner


Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Black woman are especially hard hit by the gender pay gap.

Black and Latina women pay an especially steep price for being on the wrong side of the pay gap.

A black woman will miss out on $946,120 during a 40-year career if they continue to make 61 cents for every dollar a white man makes, according to new estimates from the National Women’s Law Center. Put another way, a black woman would have to work until age 86 just to make the same amount of money a white man earned by age 60, the organization said.

A black woman would have to work until age 86 just to make the same amount of money a white man earned by age 60, new research concludes.

Black women in high-paying careers are also underpaid, the National Women’s Law Center said, citing U.S. Census Bureau data. Black women who work full time, year-round in these occupations — lawyers, engineers, and physicians or surgeons are paid about $70,000, compared to the $105,000 paid to white, non-Hispanic men in these same jobs. This amounts to an annual loss of $35,000 each year, or $1.4 million over a 40-year career.

The data didn’t break out the lifetime loss in earnings for Latina women but, assuming the same methodology as that applying to black women, that would likely far exceed $1 million. While black women earned 61 cents on the dollar, white women earned 77 cents and Latina women earned 53 cents for every dollar a white man makes, the study added.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also paint a troubling picture. Black women were the only demographic group to see their median weekly earnings decline from 2017 to 2018 , according to the agency’s figures. Their median earnings decreased from $657 to $654, the agency said. Latina women had the lowest median earnings, but they rose from $603 to $617.

White men have paid off 44% of their student debt 12 years after graduation, but black women end up owing 13% more in that same time.

Other studies have estimated the wage gap’s ultimate cost and put a lower — yet still large — price tag. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine researchers analyzed internal pay disparities and said a woman hired in 2005 and making 2.6% less than her male counterpart stood to lose $501,416 in salary and investment returns during 30 years.

The study didn’t delve into racial disparities. But being a place of higher learning and advanced degrees, the Johns Hopkins University research is a reminder of another hurdle black women face.

Black women graduate college with the most student-loan debt, according to the American Association of University Women. They also incur an average $30,366 in student-loan debt , which is almost $9,000 more than the average $21,619 student-loan debt all women have, the organization said.

One argument against the pay gap’s existence is that women simply need more skills and degrees to earn more. But some economists say the pay gap remains stubbornly in place regardless of educational degree. White men have paid off 44% of their debt 12 years after graduation, but black women end up owing 13% more in that same time, other researchers say.

Andrew Keshner is a personal finance reporter based in New York.

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