Why Latina Women Are Earning Significantly Less Than White Men
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
This is Hanging On, our series about the American middle class looking at the economic pressures of American life in 2016. We all know there's a gender gap when it comes to pay in this country. That disparity is even worse for the 10 million Latinas in the American workforce. The average woman working full-time earns 80 cents on the dollar paid to men. Latinas earn just 54 cents on the dollar. And that wage gap persists even as the number of Latino-owned businesses is growing and as more and more get college degrees. The question is why.
And to help answer it, we've called on Vicki Shabo, vice president of the National Partnership for Women and Families. Hi, Vicki.
VICKI SHABO: Hi, Mary Louise. It's great to be with you.
KELLY: We're glad to have you with us. So 54 cents on the dollar - that's a huge gap. What explains it?
SHABO: It is a huge gap. So if the wage gap were eliminated, on average, a Latina who is working full time year-round would have enough money for approximately 193 more weeks of food for herself and her family - that's more than three and a half years' worth - 27 additional months of rent. This is real bread and butter and - you know, the middle class aspect. This is preventing people from rising from one economic status to the next. And we need to unpack what this is about. I mean, this is about differences in jobs that people are holding, different education levels, different places that you might live in the country. And it is about implicit and explicit bias as well. And for Latinas, it is both a double-bind of gender and ethnicity as well.
KELLY: When you talk to Latina women, what kind of stories do you hear about why they think that this wage gap is just so unequal?
SHABO: Well, I mean, I think, you know, for each person's experience, it's a bit unique. But certainly stories of bias on the job, not being willing to ask for the raises that you might deserve, certainly not knowing what your co-workers are being paid, so not even knowing to ask and being afraid to - afraid to ask a supervisor for a raise or to remedy an inequity that might exist. So if you think about the compounding of access to quality jobs and lack of access to the supports that allow you to make ends meet, to be there for your family and to sort of rise and advance in your job and your career trajectory, these are all multiple problems that are being layered on top of one another.
KELLY: One of the factors here is education. That's presumably across the board, whether you're talking Latino or not. Unpack specifically how it plays out for Latino workers.
SHABO: Education, for sure, is a factor in pay that you earn and job opportunities going forward. So if we can increase college graduation rates, that will increase pay over time. But we know, for example, that women who have college degrees are paid less than men with associate's degrees on average.
KELLY: So it's this whole spectrum, everything from leveling the educational playing field to federal and state-led policy changes to just better child care and other...
KELLY: ...Opportunities to let people work.
SHABO: Exactly. And elder care is one thing we haven't talked about, but certainly Latinos are more likely to be in multigenerational families. And so if you think about what it means to be a full-time worker who is advancing in a job, in a career, who's available for the kind of work that comes along, you've got to factor in, you know, child care, elder care, family responsibilities. And that's true across ethnicity and race, and across gender, increasingly.
KELLY: This issue's come up on the campaign trail in this election cycle. Do you see - can you point to any sign that gives you hope that four years from now, we might be having a somewhat different conversation?
SHABO: Well, it gives me hope that both candidates in the general election race and the people around them have talked about women in the workplace. I think there are very different visions that have been put forward about what it takes to address the challenges of working women. But the fact that it's on the agenda, the fact that there are Democrats and Republicans talking about this issue in Congress as well gives me hope that we will see progress.
KELLY: That's Vicki Shabo of the National Partnership for Women and Families talking about the Latina wage gap. Vicki, thanks for coming by.
SHABO: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.