Wage gap expected to shrink, more for some than others


By Sarah Buchlaw

Women are expected to finally reach pay parity in 2059 — 76 percent of us, that is. That year reads more like 2123 for black women and 2248 for Latinx women, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

News articles are eagerly reporting that the gender gap is narrowing for the first time in years, but evidence shows that the gap is as wide as ever for women of color.
The term “wage gap” refers to the difference between the money women and their male counterparts make in the United States. Since 2007, that difference has been remained roughly 20 cents, meaning that the average woman makes about 80 cents to every man’s dollar (National Women’s Law Center).

In a report addressing those who claim that the wage gap is a myth, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research asserts, “Just because the explanation of the gender wage gap is multi-faceted does not make it a lie.”

The factors that the Institute cites as contributing to the wage gap are “discrimination in pay, recruitment, job assignment and promotion; lower earnings in occupations mainly done by women; and women’s disproportionate share of time spent on family care.”

Wage gap doubters must understand that an issue as nuanced as the wage gap deserves critiques that are equally so; the wage gap may be complex and even confusing, but extensive research shows that it is no lie.

Returning to the average woman’s salary compared to her male counterparts, the key word is “average.” That women earn 80 percent of what men do is a watered-down statistic that can be severely misleading. When we look beyond this calculated average, the reality becomes more clear.

It should be noted here that there is a substantial gap between white men’s salaries and what black and Latinx men earn, but for the purposes of this article, white men’s earnings will be the ones compared to women of various ethnicities.

So if we break down that 80 percent average, what do we find?

Women are expected to finally reach pay parity in 2059 – 76 percent of us, that is. That year reads more like 2123 for Black women and 2248 for Latinx women, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

In 2016, white women earned 79 percent of what white men earned. Black women, however, made only 62.5 percent of what those white men generated. Finally, Latinx women’s earnings in 2016 were an astonishing 54 percent of those of white men.

We can see, then, that the statistics published about the wage gap overall are often over-generalized. Now, we’ve come to the big news: the age-old wage gap is finally closing.

“This is the first time the female-to-male earnings ratio has experienced an annual increase since 2016,” the United States Census Bureau reported on the earnings statistics of 2016. The increase they’re referring to? 1.1 percent. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows a slightly lower increase of a little under 1 percent.

A change of any size is meaningful, but I wouldn’t pull out the “congratulations” banners quite yet. Like talk of the wage gap itself, discussions of it closing leave out a great deal of important information.

In 2016, the female-to-male earnings ratio of white women (compared to white men) increased by almost 4 percent from 2015. This sounds promising enough until you learn that the female-to-male earnings ratio of Black women decreased by 0.8 percent, and the ratio for Latinx women did not move at all.

Progress for white women is often deemed progress for all women, and we forget the realities of women of color. We cite the 19th Amendment of 1920, for example, as giving all women the right to vote. We often fail to acknowledge that very intentional policies, tests and even state violence prevented black women from exercising that same right until the mid-1960s.

Today, we are just as quick to celebrate a narrowing of the wage gap (however minor it may be) as we were to celebrate the success of women’s suffrage. But the 19th Amendment gave white women the right to vote, and this average wage increase gives white women economic progress; changes like these rarely reach as far as to improve the lives of women of color.

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