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Women of color suffer as coronavirus takes existing economic inequalities and doubles down on them

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The coronavirus economy is crushing women, people of color, and especially women of color. While the economy added 661,000 jobs between August and September, 865,000 women dropped out of the paid workforce. White women have recovered 61% of the jobs they lost in the early months of the pandemic, while Black women have recovered just 39%. As of a September 30 report in The Washington Post, less than 45% of mothers of children aged six to 12 have gotten back jobs they lost, while fathers of children in that age group have seen employment rebound 70%. Workers with college degrees have gotten back 55% of lost jobs, while for workers with high school degrees it’s less than 40%.

The devastation to state and local government jobs—particularly in education—and to the childcare industry has hit women particularly hard, putting many out of work—and then, in turn, women in other industries feel the squeeze because their kids are at home and household labor and childcare fall disproportionately on them.

Unemployment actually rose among Latinas in the most recent jobs report, going from 10.5% to 11%, and Latinas accounted for 324,000 of the women dropping out of the workforce. Though unemployment among Black women is just as high, at 11.1%, only 58,000 Black women dropped out.

This may be just the tip of the iceberg, though. A study published by Lean In “found that one in four women are considering downsizing their careers or leaving the workforce as a result of the damage wrought by COVID-19,” The 19th reported. “It’s the first time in six years of research that the annual study has found evidence of women intending to leave their jobs at higher rates than men.”

In an unequal economy and an unequal society, go figure. The new burdens of a crisis fall hardest on the people already struggling. This is a challenge to the United States and, in particular, to Democrats should they win big in November: What are we going to do to fix this?

This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on October 5, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

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


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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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Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is a powerful reminder of how equal pay isn’t

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Equal Pay Day, the day when women had made as much since January 1, 2018, as white men made in 2018, was back on April 2. It is just now—August 22, 2019—Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. That’s because while women overall make 80 to 81 cents for every dollar a white man makes, there are major racial disparities among women.

Asian women have the smallest disparity, making a whopping 85 cents on the dollar, so their equal pay day comes in early March. White women come next, at 77 cents—their equal pay day is just a few days after the overall one, on April 19. For black women, it’s 61 cents, which is why we’re here in late August talking about equal pay, by which we mean how equal the pay isn’t. That gap adds up fast, Jocelyn Frye writes at the Center for American Progress, “amounting to $23,653 less in earnings over an entire year. In the span of a 40-year career, this translates into an average lifetime earnings gap of $946,120 between Black women and white men.” Black women face a massive gap no matter how much education they get—and they’re left with higher student loan debt than any other racial group.

When we talk about Equal Pay Day, we’re always talking about apples to apples—people who work full time and year round. And with black women, we’re talking about the group of women that has always worked outside the home at the highest rates, with a complicated and often viciously discriminatory history in which, Frye writes, “Black women frequently encounter a workplace narrative that deemphasizes the importance of their personal caregiving responsibilities or suggests that their caregiving roles should be secondary to their paid work.” Black women have long cared for white children for low wages while their caregiving role for their own children was shoved to the side, and black women remain disproportionately in occupations in which scheduling abuses and unpredictable weekly hours of work make life even more difficult than low wages alone would do.

Since Native American women earn 58 cents for every dollar a white man makes and Latina women earn 53 cents, their equal pay days won’t come until September 23 and November 20.

This blog was originally published at Daily Kos on August 22, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos.

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