Working Women of Color and Wages

by Alesia Lucas | August 24, 2012 12:00 am

Women are more likely than their male counterparts to pursue higher education (see graph on right); and yet they still don’t make more money. Latino women make 60 cents for every dollar a man makes.  African-American women make 69 cents for every dollar a man makes. Minority women are more likely to be the primary provider for the family and these differences in pay directly affect the low-income status of minority women.

The big argument against welfare is that its recipients are uneducated and not looking for work. I was raised by a college educated single mother, and once upon a time we were on food stamps.   This gross generalization couldn’t be more false; my mother had a full-time job and a college degree from a prestigious university. With low income housing dwindling, stricter eligibility requirements, and federal budget cuts to assistance programs the safety net is becoming smaller. The National Women’s Law Center recently released a new report entitled, “Cutting Programs for Low-Income People Especially Hurts Women and Their Families”. The report highlighted the essential truth, that when women suffer the family suffers. Perhaps if my mother and other low-income moms made as much as their male co-workers made they wouldn’t need to enroll in assistance programs? If the educational level is equal the pay should be too.

With the economy struggling and salaries decreasing across the board, women are feeling the crunch. Minority women have the double burden of being judged as a minority and as a woman.  This is evident when analyzing the median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers (click to see the graph).

It isn’t always enough to just be employed. When preparing for retirement women are put at a severe disadvantage. Women would have to work longer to save up for retirement and future healthcare costs because they live longer.  Unfortunately, they are also more likely to act as caregivers and may have to leave the workforce earlier to care for a loved one. Women will continue to be placed at an economic disadvantage, especially women of color, unless equal pay becomes the norm.

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