Women of Color and the Wage Gap

By Alison Borman

Many people are already familiar with the famous statistic of the average woman earning 78% of what her male counterpart does. However, it would be more accurate to say that the average white woman earns only 78% of what her white male counterpart does. This statistic fails to address the various other factors that can play a role in an individual’s wages aside from one’s gender, such as race and ethnicity. Much like gender, race seems to have a negative effect on one’s earnings which leaves women of color in the most difficult position. The previously mentioned percentage becomes significantly lower when one looks at the wages of a woman of color compared to that of a white man’s.

A portion of this difference is believed to be due to differences in occupations and hours worked, but this is only a detail of a larger picture. These differences are not so much a reflection of differences in choices, but rather realities and factors that have been predetermined. After all, why would someone choose to be paid less? The truth is, women of color, particularly Hispanic and African American women, face significant barriers to entry within the workplaces. They are significantly less likely to be in management positions and are instead more often than not relegated to service positions.

There are various factors that act as barriers to women of color in the work place. Education is a significant barrier as Hispanic and African American women are less likely to graduate from high school and receive a bachelor’s degree when compared to white women. This automatically puts these women at an incredible disadvantage and bars them from any high-paying professional fields. The responsibilities of a family are another critical factor. Though women of color are more likely to the breadwinners in their families, they are still more likely to be single mothers than white women. This provides the additional challenges of balancing family with work.

These factors are just small pieces of a larger issue. Most obviously, the education gap can be blamed on socioeconomic conditions. This perpetuates a cycle through generations which is difficult to escape, particularly since access to education unfortunately is so often dependent on financial circumstances. Additionally, the United States is one of the only developed countries not to universally offer paid family and medical leave. This makes being successful in work challenging for women, particularly those who would like to raise a family. There is also the issues of employers own prejudices, whether racial or regarding gender or both, which is difficult to measure but inarguably exists.



5 responses to “Women of Color and the Wage Gap

  1. While the article tackles a very interesting and important issue in equality, the title is slightly misleading. Women of other races are subject to lower wages due to socioeconomic reasons (as mentioned in the final paragraphs), however the article does not fully address the differences in wages between white women and women of color who share equal qualifications and experience.

    Furthermore, the lack of mentioning some factors such as experience, age etc may imply that the model suffers from omitted variable bias.


    • alisonborman

      I’m sorry that you found the article misleading. It was not my intention to address what it is you described, but rather a more comprehensive view of why these discrepancies in qualifications and experience exist. I apologize for causing you confusion by assuming and not including background knowledge on what exactly the wage gap is. The wage gap is commonly suggested to exist due to a variety of factors, such as discrimination in hiring, differences in education, and differences in positions held, all of which were explicitly addressed in the article. My intent, as written in the article, was to look into how African American and Hispanic women are often in lower-paying fields such as sales and service while white women are more likely to have careers in higher-paying professional fields or management and how education among other socioeconomic factors have played roles in this. Of course, they could be expanded on but my intent was to write something the equivalent of one page rather than ten.
      If you read the graph, you can see that the study consists of the median wages of all full-time employees over 16. Therefore, all ages are taken into account so I fail to see how this would be relevant. Unless you are implying that different races have significant differences in age distribution in full time employment? I would be curious if you have more information on this.


  2. chendaniil

    Your post is very interesting! Never really thought about the women’s race and ethnicity influencing the gap in earnings between two genders. I found surprising the fact that Asian American women earn a higher percentage of white men’s earnings than White women do.


  3. huzhen1995

    The gender inequality is a huge question that all of the countries in the world have to face. However, sometimes I believe that difference jobs do requires different genders, in some specific area, women do it better than men, on the other hand, men also do better than women in some fields. The most unfair thing is that those equally output works did not win salaries that can balance their working.


  4. Dear Alison,

    You have chosen to write an article on a topic that is extremely important to many around the world, disparities in wages. A question that comes to my mind is what can be done to increase access to economic and social opportunities for more people around the world?

    ~Professor Myra Chaudhary


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