For anyone familiar with the racial or gender pay gaps, it ought to be a familiar statistic: a typical Black woman will make 62 cents for every dollar a white man makes. That gap has necessitated its own awareness day: Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, set to take place this year on Aug. 13. The 2020 date marks when a Black woman can expect to earn the equivalent of what a white, non-Hispanic man earned during 2019.
As Black Women’s Equal Pay Day approaches, two studies illuminate the cost this gap has on Black women and Black communities, as well as how the pandemic can be expected to exacerbate this crisis.
A new report by the National Women’s Law Center (h/t The Washington Post) takes the current pay gap and uses it to project wages lost during a lifetime. On average, the report found, a Black woman in the United States will lose close to a million dollars in lifetime earnings, compared to what her white, male peer would have made.
The exact number is $941,600, according to the Law Center. The report also notes that a Black woman would have to work until the age of 85 in order to make what a white, non-Hispanic man has earned by the time he’s 60 years old.
The findings were additionally broken down into state-by-state analyses, finding the smallest wage gap in Kentucky, where Black women would lose $655,840 over their lifetime because of pay discrepancies. The gap was the worst in Washington D.C., where Black women earn just $0.51 to a white man’s dollar, resulting in a net loss of nearly $2 million in lifetime earnings. To put it another way, a typical Black woman in D.C. would need to work until she was 98 years old in order to take home what a white man in the district would have made by the time he was 60.
In at least 12 states, Black women lost more than a million dollars in lifetime earnings because of pay disparities. These include New Jersey, Louisiana, Massachusetts, California, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming (there was not enough data available to generate numbers for Idaho, Montana and Vermont).
It’s important to note that a trend this widespread and consistent is not accidental, nor is it static. As the Post writes, Black women workers have yet to make up the ground they lost during the Great Recession, when foreclosures and job losses affected many Black households. This has left them less prepared than other groups to handle this current economic crisis, in which job cuts have disproportionately affected women of color.
A survey published Thursday from Time’s Up takes a deeper look at people’s feelings around workplace gender discrimination, as well as where Black women and other women of color stand in the middle of a pandemic and recession.
Women across race and ethnicity have been overworked in the last several months, the study finds. They are overrepresented in low-wage jobs and underrepresented in high-paying ones, while still shouldering the brunt of home and caregiving responsibilities. Roughly half of all Latina (51 percent) and Black women (48 percent) do not have enough money right now for basic needs like food and housing.
Here, we can see how the wage gap makes living in the midst of two crises even more precarious. It is an oft-repeated statistic that many American families do not have a spare $400 in the bank to help them weather emergencies; for women of color, this number is even lower. Slightly more than half of the women of color surveyed had less than $200 in savings; this was true of only 27 percent of white men, and 37 percent of white women.
To make matters even worse, gatekeepers are still shutting women out based on sexist beliefs. According to the survey, one in three men who make hiring decisions says that “men should have more of a right to a job than women” when jobs are scarce.
The combined racial and gender discrimination Black women face has a profound effect on their households and communities. As a report from the Center for American Progress noted last year, Black women are more likely than their non-Black peers to be their family’s breadwinners. According to the report, 84.4 percent of Black mothers were the primary, sole, or co-breadwinners for their family in 2017.
“It’s past time for policymakers to address the gender wage gap and lack of policies such as universal paid family and medical leave, paid sick days, and workplace flexibility so that mothers can reach their full potential while caring for their families,” Sarah Jane Glynn, former director of Women’s Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress and author of the report, said at the time.
Tina Tchen, president and CEO of Time’s Up Foundation, echoed those sentiments.
“Racism is one of the root causes of the pay gap; and you cannot solve one without solving the other,” Tchen told The Root, adding that Black women are fully aware of the systemic barriers they face. The Time’s Up Survey found two-thirds of Black women say racism is one of the reasons for the pay gap.
“The wage gap has staggering consequences for Black women’s health and economic security, and amid the pandemic and economic crisis, it could get even worse. We cannot ignore these multiple crises any longer,” she continued. “The opportunity—really, the obligation we have—is to take urgent action to pass public and private sector policies that will address these systemic drivers of pay inequity and ultimately, create workplaces that are safe, fair, and dignified for everyone.”
With no end in sight for the current economic fallout, addressing the wage gap is as urgent as it has ever been—particularly at a time when the country is attempting to fully reckon with its racist past and present.
“These women are losing millions of dollars over their lifetimes because they’re being shortchanged so much compared to their white peers,” Jasmine Tucker, director of research for the National Women’s Law Center told The Post. “It’s money that people need right this second.”
Updated on Thursday, July 30 at 10:58 am ET: This article has been updated to include a statement Tina Tchen, president and CEO of TIME’S UP Foundation, gave to The Root.
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