This week, pay discrimination has been big news.
The fact that Jennifer Lawrence wrote an essay about what she acknowledges is an unrelatable, extremely high-paid outpost on the gender-pay-gap frontier for Lena Dunham's newsletter, of course, has nothing to do with all this attention. Nothing. It's kind of like how all those not strictly accurate stories about the gender pay gap in Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate office would have emerged if Clinton hadn't made equal pay one of her signature issues. It's just a coincidence.
On Thursday, while lots of folks were busy comparing what Lawrence and Clinton have said and done on the gender pay gap, Latina Equal Pay Day came and went.
What's that? Well, Latinas earn, on average, so little for every dollar earned by white men that they would have to work 22 months to earn what a white man makes in 12. Oct. 14 marked the point where Latinas "caught up" this year.
Latinas earn about 54 cents for every dollar earned by white men, according to an analysis of federal wage and education data released this year by the American Association of University Women, one of several groups that have long advocated for more assertive government and private efforts to address the gender pay gap.
And the situation is quite bad for other groups of women, too. Native American/Alaskan Native women earn 59 cents for every dollar white men are paid. For Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders, it's 62 cents, and for black women, it's 63 cents. White women take in 78 cents. And Asian women earn median wages that come closest to the median wages of white men, earning 90 cents for every dollar.
The gaps for each group of women are smaller and change in order of severity when compared with men in their own racial and ethnic group. But that should come as cold comfort since that's a function of the combined effects of racial and gender pay disparities. Check out the chart if the interplay between race and gender remains unclear. (Click to enlarge it.)
Now, before anyone readies their rebuttal to this set of facts with some variation on, 'This is all about education and which jobs most Latinas and other women choose to work,' allow us to help you remove your rose-colored glasses.
The gender pay gap persists even after researchers control for education and occupation. In practical terms, that means that, if you take a group in one office or one industry and look at the groups of people doing the same work or shouldering similar responsibilities and who have the same level of education, you will probably still see the same pattern. Women as a whole are earning, on average, a portion of what white men do and a larger-but-still-reduced slice of what men in their own racial and ethnic groups are paid. Race or ethnicity plus gender equals heavy toll on wage.
Gender pay gaps exist for teenagers with after-school jobs. And no, not all of them have babies. (Teen pregnancy for all racial and ethnic groups has reached all-time lows.) Also, after the American Association of University Women accounted for an even longer list of variables in a 2012 study — college major, occupation, economic sector, hours worked, months unemployed since graduation, GPA, type of undergraduate institution, institution selectivity, age, geographical region and marital status — they found a 7 percent difference in the earnings of male and female college graduates one year after school. The difference could not be explained in any other way but gender. Similarly, researchers found a 12 percent unexplained difference in earnings among full-time workers 10 years after college graduation.
There are even gaps affecting women in every state and every region of the United States. (Click on the chart to enlarge it.)
The Fix knows that you have undoubtedly read that the real problem is that women choose to opt out of work, accept less-demanding jobs and pay or enter professions that pay less than men, creating the dramatic slope in the first chart above. Or that the real issue is what happens to women's careers after children or marriage. Or that this is not a problem for young women and ladies who know how to negotiate. To a degree, if the data are read as the truth alone and not a reflection of cultural practices and social trends that show up in the numbers, some of those ideas can be substantiated.
Mothers do earn less than women who don't have kids. They also report working fewer hours. Women are overrepresented in some of the country's lower-paying fields and underrepresented in some of its higher-paying ones.
But to stop there assumes that the types of work and roles in which women are expected to take leading responsibility are valued in a gender-neutral way. It assumes that girls and boys are receiving the same guidance, expectations, opportunities and admonitions from parents, teachers, guidance counselors and, later, hiring managers. And it really assumes that every time a woman is paid less to do the same job, some person had a logical and justifiable reason.
Women are doing better today than they were 40 years ago, the American Association of University Women report released this year found. But most of that is because women are working more hours and women's wages have grown at a faster clip than men's. In essence, men are doing worse.
But, Latina women continue to lose $25,177 a year, or just over $1 million over the course of their entire careers, because of the combined effects of the ethnic and gender pay gaps, according to the National Women's Law Center, another organization that advocates for policies and practices to eliminate the pay gap. And even though the median wages of Latinos of both genders sit at the bottom of the scale, something as fundamental as more education does not eliminate the gender pay gap that exists between them or between Latinas and other groups of workers. It just shrinks.