By Katherine Wiles
Oct. 21 marks Latina Equal Pay Day, a symbolic day representing the extra number of days Latinas must work to earn the same as a white, non-Hispanic man did the previous year. Basically, Latina women had to work nearly 22 months to earn the same amount that white men did in 12.
The wage gap between Latina workers and white, non-Hispanic men is the largest gap for any major racial or ethnic group, with Latinas earning 57 cents for every dollar a non-Hispanic white man earns, according to the Department of Labor .
At more than 12 million workers, Latinas make up 16% of the country’s female labor force . That number is expected to grow considerably over the next several years , according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This wage gap persists when educational levels are taken into account. Hispanic women with a bachelor’s degree make 64.6% of what white, non-Hispanic men make with the same degree. And Latinas with bachelor’s degrees still have median weekly earnings less than those of white men with only some college education or an associate degree.
The current wage gap reflects a long-standing pattern. Latina workers have consistently earned below 60 cents on a white man’s dollar over the past three decades, and the disparity today is only around 5 cents smaller than it was in 1990, according to the Department of Labor.
The wage gap for Black women has also closed by about 5 cents, while the gap for white, non-Hispanic women has closed by more than 10 cents and the gap for Asian-American women has closed completely, the Labor Department said.
That wage gap is no doubt reflected in the fact that nearly one in 10 Latinas working 27 hours or more each week is living below the poverty line — nearly twice the rate of non-Hispanic white women.
“Due to occupational segregation, workplace harassment and discrimination, as well as a lack of workplace protections, Latinas are amongst those most likely to face poverty and low wages,” Analilia Mejia, deputy director of the Women’s Bureau at the Department of Labor, said in a video statement.
Latina workers were also among those hardest hit by the pandemic economic downturn. Latinas are overrepresented in low-wage jobs, which have scarce opportunities for remote work and largely lacked access to paid family or medical leave even before the pandemic. That made it even more challenging to care for family members when they became ill with COVID-19, which Latinos did at 1.9 times the rate of white, non-Hispanic people in the U.S. , according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As a group, Latino workers were least likely to be able to work from home and most likely to lose their job during the height of the pandemic, according to a report by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute (EPI), and the greatest number of job losses were among Latina workers.
Hispanic women are less likely to work due to family responsibilities than white women, according to a report from UnidosUS , the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization. Six in 10 Latina workers surveyed said their family responsibilities increased during the pandemic, while nearly half drained their savings to stay afloat.
“If we are to break the cycle for this generation of Latinas, as well as those to come, we must implement strategies that hard-wire equity,” Mejia of the Labor Department said.
While employment levels have rebounded across the board, Latina workers have not recovered as strongly as other groups. The September unemployment rate for Hispanic women was 5.6%, compared to 3.7% for white women.
And according to the EPI, Latina workers in jobs that are critical to the recovery from COVID-19 — like teachers, child-care workers, food industry workers and healthcare workers — make anywhere from 6% to 32% less than white men in the same roles.