Lower income for all women, particularly those of color, means less money to support their families with necessities such as housing, food, education, and health care. Closing the pay gap is even more important for women of color who are more likely than their white counterparts to be breadwinners.
The long-term wage gap hurts families of color tremendously, forcing families to choose between putting food on the table or saving for a college education and retirement. On average, an African American woman working full time loses the equivalent of 118 weeks of food each year due to the wage gap. A Latina loses 154 weeks’ worth of food. The stubbornly persistent gender-based wage gap adds up substantially over the lifetime of a woman’s career. For women of color the loss of savings over a 30-hour-a-week to a 40-hour-a-week work lifespan is significant. A woman of color will have to live on one-third to 45 percent less than a white man based on the average benefits that are afforded through Social Security and pension plans. Research shows that a woman’s average lifetime earnings are more than $434,000 less than a comparable male counterpart over a 35-year working life.
Analysis done in 2012 by the Center for American Progress illustrates that the money lost over the course of a working woman’s lifetime could do one of the following:
—Feed a family of four for 37 years
—Pay for seven four-year degrees at a public university
—Buy two homes
—Purchase 14 new cars
Simply be saved for retirement and used to boost her quality of life when she leaves the workforce
Lifetime earnings are even lower for women of color because they face higher levels of unemployment and poverty rates. In March 2013 unemployment rates of black [women] and Latinas were significantly higher than their white counterparts at 12.2 percent and 9.3 percent respectively compared to white women at 6.1 percent. According to the National Women’s Law Center, poverty rates among women, particularly women of color, remain historically high and unchanged in the last year. The poverty rate among women was 14.6 percent in 2011—the highest in the last 18 years. For black women and Latinas that same year, the poverty rate was 25.9 percent and 23.9 percent, respectively.