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Black Women’s Equal Pay Day highlights generations of inequality—and lack of progress today

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Black Women’s Equal Pay Day falls on August 13 this year. That’s the day when, starting on January 1, 2019, Black women have finally been paid what white men were paid in 2019 alone. Equal Pay Day, the day observing this marker for women overall in the U.S., fell on March 31 this year, while Latina Equal Pay Day won’t come until November.

It takes us this long to get to Black Women’s Equal Pay Day because Black women make just 62 cents for every dollar paid to white men, a gross disparity that will cost the average Black woman more than $20,000 a year and nearly $950,000 in her lifetime, and one that isn’t going away anytime soon. “Indeed, from 1967 to 2018, the most recent year for which data are available, the wage gap for Black women narrowed by just 19 cents,” the National Women’s Law Center’s Jasmine Tucker reports. The coronavirus crisis is not helping.

While Black women are disproportionately likely to hold essential jobs, “making up 11 percent of the front-line workforce despite only making up 6.3 percent of the workforce overall,” that doesn’t translate to equal pay. Black women within these essential occupations still make less than their white male counterparts (and white female counterparts, though the gap there is less). As always, education is no solution: “Black women doctors are paid 73% of the average hourly wage paid to non-Hispanic white male doctors (a difference of $16.82 per hour),” according to the Economic Policy Institute’s Valerie Wilson and Melat Kassa. 

Even as Black women are a disproportionate and underpaid part of the essential workforce, some experts say the pandemic is likely to worsen inequality for Black women workers in particular. That shouldn’t be the way of it, but the centuries of oppression and inequality embedded in the pay gap—and the way too many Black women’s lives have been treated as basically disposable in the face of the danger of COVID-19—tell us that’s a likely outcome.

”We owe Black women so much more. Especially right now in the middle of this pandemic, the wage gap has robbed them of their ability to weather this storm,” the NWLC’s Tucker told USA Today’s Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy. “They don’t have the financial cushion, they don’t have any savings because we haven’t been paying them what we owe them. And that’s just straight earnings that doesn’t even account for if they were able to put any money away, if they were able to buy a house, the equity, the wealth that they could have built for themselves over that time.”

This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on August 13, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Full-time staff since 2011, currently assistant managing editor.


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