Equal Pay Day for African-American Women, By the Numbers

Black women specifically face a larger wage gap than women overall, and their Equal Pay Day comes more than two months later than the day women's groups normally highlight.

Black women specifically face a larger wage gap than women overall, and their Equal Pay Day comes more than two months later than the day women's groups normally highlight. Shutterstock

This year, April 9 was known as Equal Pay Day, representing the extra three months and change that the average woman has to work in 2014 if she wants to earn what the average man already earned by the end of 2013. But as an analysis released Monday by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) points out, the wait is longer for Black women: Equal Pay Day for African-American women was July 16, and Equal Pay Day for Latinas won’t come until November.

African-American women only earn 64 cents to every dollar earned by non-Hispanic white men, according to the NWLC analysis; the figure for women overall is 77 cents. That’s based on the average earnings of female and male full-time, year-round workers taken from Census data.

The pay gap for Black women varies based on age and industry. Older Black women have it the hardest—the pay gap is only 82 cents on the dollar for 15-year-old to 24-year-old Black women compared to white men, but the gap widens to 67 cents and 59 cents, respectively, for Black women ages 25-to-44 and 45-to-64.

As for industries, Black women working as physicians and surgeons—a high-wage and male-dominated occupation—make only 52 cents for every dollar paid to their white male counterparts. Black women fared slightly better in lower-paid occupations, making 86 cents on the dollar in male-dominated, mid-wage construction industries and 85 cents on the dollar working as low-wage, mostly female personal care aides.

The fact that Black women are overrepresented in low-wage jobs doesn’t help, the analysis said. Black women make up 14 percent of low-wage workers and 6 percent of the overall workforce.

Education levels don’t make much of an impact on the high wage gap between Black women and non-Hispanic white men. While more education corresponds with higher wages for both Black women and white men, Black women still make between 61 and 66 cents on the dollar compared to their counterparts at every education level. African-American women have to have at least a Bachelor’s degree to make as much as white men who didn’t finish college.

The NWLC analysis also notes that the wage gap for Black women varies by state. Louisiana, Wyoming, and Mississippi take the top three slots for worst wage inequality, but Washington, D.C., is right behind them, with a wage gap of 55 cents to the dollar. D.C.’s result is especially noteworthy because women overall in the District have the country’s smallest wage gap, 90 cents to the dollar.

The “77 cents to the dollar on average” wage gap statistic for women overall is frequently called into question because while it’s often used in pay discrimination debates, there are factors behind the figure other than outright pay discrimination. President Obama cited it when he passed an executive order, on this year’s Equal Pay Day for women overall, that will make it easier for some women to discover and redress being paid unequally due to gender bias.

But a pay gap persists even when researchers control for workers who have similar characteristics, like college majors and occupations. A report from the Center for American Progress notes that about 40 percent of the wage gap can’t be explained by work experience or occupational differences, and that much of that 40 percent is likely due to the failure of U.S. workplaces and other institutions to adapt and support working families.

Broad average statistics, like the 77-cent figure for women in general, the 64-cent figure for African-American women, or the 55-cent figure for Latinas, draw attention to the fact that women are usually the ones to make career sacrifices for the sake of raising a family. Policies like universal child care and maternity and family leave, advocates argue, would mean fewer women had to make the “choice” to take a lower-paying job, fewer hours, more unpaid leave, or fewer promotions in order to care for their children.