Today, Black women catch up in wages to what white men earned in 2016. It’s a striking annual reminder to pay attention to the economic inequality African-American women face, and how it is–tragically, persistently–driven by both race and gender.
Black women earn just 63 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men, according to the National Women’s Law Center. The disparity holds true regardless of a woman’s education level or profession.
Women across the board are paid less than men for equal work, but African-American women face an even larger wage gap than white women. The American Association for University Women reports that median annual earnings for white women in 2015 were $42,026–significantly more than the $34,426 than African-American women brought home.
This would be bad enough on its own, but Black women’s economic security worsens as this inequality plays out in the real world. Black women are overrepresented in low-wage jobs, and underrepresented in high-wage ones. And their lost earning potential over a lifetime is staggering. On average, Black women lose a whopping $840,000 over a 40-year career, all the while sacrificing Social Security and retirement benefits.
Today we must contemplate the critical intersection of racial and economic justice–and how women of color bear the dreadful consequences of this broken system. NOW’s grassroots activists will continue fighting for policies to close the wage gap and achieve economic security for women–and those must include policies to advance racial justice as well.