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Women, minorities disproportionately reliant on jobless aid, data shows

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“It is not a stretch to say this policy choice is also a racial justice policy choice,” the Economic Policy Institute’s Heidi Shierholz said.

Women and racial minorities are disproportionately reliant on unemployment insurance, economic data shows, leaving them most vulnerable if Congress decides not to renew the expanded benefits that are set to expire at the end of the month.

Both groups are not only more likely to be out of work and eligible to receive state-administered benefits, but are also to receive less because of historically low wages, research shows. That creates outsize dependence on the federally supplied additional $600 a week enacted via coronavirus aid legislation and slated to end at the end of this month.

Forty-seven percent of recipients of state unemployment benefits in July are projected to be nonwhite, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Thirteen percent of female workers will receive benefits the same month, compared with 11 percent of male workers. At the same time, women make up two-thirds of the lowest-paid workers in the U.S. And nonwhite workers are far more likely to be paid poverty-level wages than their white peers.

The extra aid accounts for an average two-thirds of recipients’ benefits, and letting it lapse could risk widening gender and racial wealth gaps and causing irreparable harm to the economy, economists say.

“Cutting off that $600 will exacerbate racial and ethnic inequality, it will exacerbate gender inequality,” said the Economic Policy Institute’s Heidi Shierholz, former DOL chief economist. She called the money “a lifeline for many women, many minorities — Black and Hispanic workers in particular.”

“It is not a stretch to say this policy choice is also a racial justice policy choice.”

The question of whether to extend the extra $600 a week, known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, is a key fault line in the negotiations over the next coronavirus response package, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he hopes to clear before Congress’ August recess.

Democrats say the expanded benefits are critical to support hard-hit demographics.

“The findings in last week’s CBO report show how certain, vulnerable populations particularly feel Covid-19-related economic hardships, making the need to extend the supplemental pandemic unemployment compensation more urgent,” House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said in a statement to POLITICO. “Women and people of color have been disproportionately affected by coronavirus layoffs, and if we don’t continue emergency support until it is safe to return to work and safe, affordable child care is available, there will be devastating, long-lasting consequences for families and for our economy.”

Republicans counter that the benefits discourage workers from returning to their jobs and may prevent the economy from making a timely recovery.

“The unemployment benefits are a barrier for people coming back to work,” the top Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady of Texas, said on CNBC Monday.

McConnell has said he opposes including the $600 a week enhancement in the next coronavirus response package, calling it “a bonus not to go back to work.”

The unemployment rate for women and minorities has remained consistently higher over the course of the pandemic. In June, the rate for women was 11.2 percent, according to Labor Department data, compared to 10.2 percent for men. In the same month, the jobless rate for Black and Hispanic workers was 15.4 and 14.5 percent, respectively; the rate for white workers was 10.1 percent.

Part of this is because female and minority workers hold a majority of jobs in sectors that saw the greatest percent of job loss due to the pandemic. Despite some gains, the child care industry is still down 237,000 workers from June 2019, per DOL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. More than 93 percent of child care workers are women, according to the agency, and 45.3 percent are Black, Asian or Latino.

Losing the additional benefits “can be devastating,” said Andre Perry, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Women, and Black and brown women in particular, needed that pay to make up for the inequality that is present in their everyday lives.”

“There was an epidemic before this pandemic, and it was inequality.”

This blog originally appeared at Politico on July 9, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Eleanor Mueller is a legislative reporter for POLITICO Pro, covering policy passing through Congress. She also authors Day Ahead, POLITICO Pro’s daily newsletter rounding up Capitol Hill goings-on.


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Latina Equal Pay Day finally rolls around, this week in the war on workers

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November 20 was Latina Equal Pay Day. That means that’s when the average Latina caught up with what the average white man was paid between January 1, 2018, and December 31, 2018. And yes, it is nearly 2020. Latinas need to work nearly a full extra year to match the white man’s single year.

While women overall make 80 or 81 cents on the white man’s dollar, putting Equal Pay Day in April, and Black Women’s Equal Pay Day comes in late August since they make 61 cents on the dollar, for Latinas it’s 53 cents for every dollar a white man makes. White women make 77 cents, Asian American women make 85 cents, and Native American women make 58 cents.

“At every level of education, white non-Hispanic men are paid more than Hispanic women. What’s also clear from the data is that further education does not close their sizable wage gaps with white non-Hispanic men,” the Economic Policy Institute reports. “As Hispanic women increase their educational attainment, their pay gap with white men generally increases. The largest dollar gap (more than $18 an hour), occurs for workers with more than a college degree. Even Hispanic women with an advanced degree earn less than white men who only have a bachelor’s degree. That statistic bears repeating: white non-Hispanic men with only a college degree are paid, on average, $6.81 more than Latinas with an advanced degree!”

This article was originally published at Daily Kos on November 25, 2019. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is a Daily Kos contributor at Daily Kos 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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