The gender wage gap continues to be an ongoing problem in the U.S. as seen in a new report. A study (PDF) of the wage gap in 20 states drilled down racially to look at the figure for black women, and illuminated some major, and disheartening, disparities.
Nationally, the wage gap for women compared to men is 77 cents on the dollar. For black women, that figure is 70 cents on the dollar when compared to men and an even worse 64 cents on the dollar when compared to white, non-Hispanic men. An analysis of Census Bureau stats by the National Partnership for Women and Families looked at the wage gap for black women 20 states with the highest number of such women working full-time, year-round and found "a pervasive gender-based wage gap in the very states where the majority of them work."
Illinois was one of those states. With more than 255,000 black women working full time, year-round, the Prairie State fell below the national gender wage gap at 73 cents on the dollar for black women when compared to men — this is just 3 cents more than the national wage gap for black women versus men. The average salary for men in Illinois is $50,746, compared to $37,290 for black women.
“Women of color are hard hit by a kind of perfect – and perfectly devastating – storm caused by discrimination, a struggling economy and the country’s failure to adopt family friendly workplace policies,” explains Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families. “These new data show that the wage gap is costing women of color thousands of dollars in critical income each year that could be spent on food, rent, health care and on meeting other fundamental needs for their families. It’s an unacceptable situation that should be a resounding wake-up call for lawmakers who have the power to do something about it.”
For the 20 states studied, the wage gap for black women ranged from a whopping 55 cents on the dollar to 87 cents on the dollar, with Louisiana and Mississippi being the states with the largest disparities in income. New York, Maryland and California had the lowest wage gaps at 79 cents, 80 cents and 87 cents, respectively.
The massive wage gap for black women is especially problematic because more than 4 million U.S. households are led by African American women. Due in part to the wage gap, more than 40 percent of households headed by black women live below the poverty level and "of those households with a child under five years of age, the percentage increases to more than 50 percent. This means that half of households headed by African American women with young children live in poverty," explains the report.
The National Partnership for Women and Families says the data illustrates the need for the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would make gender pay discrimination on the same level of other wage discrimination, make it illegal for employers to punish employees for discussing their wages, and force employers to prove there is a legitimate, job-related rationale for disparities in income among employees.