July 31, 2023

Black Women Won’t Reach Pay Equity Till 2144, Finds New Research

Black women continue to earn less than their white male counterparts in every state, new research by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) has revealed.

Moreover, at the current rate of progress, Black women won’t reach pay equity with white men until 2144.

Nationally, Black women earn just 63.7 cents for every dollar earned by white men – a striking difference of $20,702 in just one year. Among full-time year-round workers, the gap was slightly smaller at 67.2 cents on the dollar.

“The gender wage gap is a national disgrace and women of color feel the burden of that discrimination more than most” said Robyn Watson Ellerbe, IWPR’s chief strategy officer, per the Michigan Advance. “It is an injustice women — and women of color in particular — have had to endure year after year.”

State by state variations

Black women’s median annual earnings were less than white men’s in every single state included in the study, whether they worked full-time year-round, worked part-year, and/or part-time

The median annual earnings of all Black women workers are less than half of white men’s in four states: Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, and Washington DC. However, Louisiana ranks at the bottom, paying Black women just 43.3 cents on the dollar earned by white men, rising to 48.7 cents on the dollar for full-time year-round work.

The District of Columbia had the largest absolute gap in earnings, with Black women working full-time year-round earning $53,394 less than white men in just one year, rising to $56,039 less when all Black women and white men with earnings are compared.

Hawaii came out on top, paying Black women 71.7 cents on the dollar, rising to 82.1 cents for full-time year-round workers.

Image credit: IWPR

Continuing inequalities

The persistent wage gap is rooted in various systemic inequalities including discrimination in recruitment, hiring, pay, and promotions, along with undervaluation of care work and the underrepresentation of Black women in high-paying jobs. The absence of well-developed employment rights further widens the gap, creating an unjust playing field.

The COVID-19 pandemic also exacerbated existing economic inequalities faced by Black women in the labor market, with pandemic-related and subsequent job losses disproportionately impacting Black women.

Read: WOC In The Workplace - What We Learned From The Largest Study Of Women In Corporate America

Moreover, the lack of access to remote work, maternity protections, and paid leave continues to disrupt employment continuity for Black women who are often tasked with caregiving responsibilities.

The researchers estimate that it will take Black women until 2144 to reach pay equity with white men – over 100 years.

Path to Pay Equity

The report from IWPR emphasizes the need for strengthened and updated equal pay laws. This includes eliminating the use of salary history in recruitment and selection, increasing salary transparency, pay data collection, and an increase in the minimum wage.

The researchers also call for greater prevention of workplace harassment and discrimination and statutory rights to paid leave, affordable and quality child care and adult care.

“Waiting another 100 years for pay equity is not an option.”

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Samara Linton

Community Manager at POCIT | Co-editor of The Colour of Madness: Mental Health and Race in Technicolour (2022), and co-author of Diane Abbott: The Authorised Biography (2020)