Black Women’s Top Jobs Pay Half What White Women’s Do

(Bloomberg) -- On average, a black woman in the U.S. has to work more than eight additional months to earn what, on average, a white man does in one calendar year. Tuesday, Aug. 7, marks this ignominious milestone: It’s what’s known as Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. It also falls four months after the same marker for white women, who experience a smaller wage gap than African-American women do.  

A major factor in the black-white gap is what’s known as occupational sorting—the clustering of demographic groups into certain jobs and fields. Women tend to cluster in lower paying jobs than men, black people in lower paying jobs relative to white people. Black women are doubly punished. In the U.S., the most popular jobs for white women pay almost twice as much as the most popular jobs for black women. 

“It’s reflective of gender and racial discrimination that we know exists in the workplace and in terms of what opportunities are available to women of color,” said Valerie Wilson, the director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy.

Black Women’s Top Jobs Pay Half What White Women’s Do

The most popular job among black women is as a home-health-care worker, one of the lowest paying jobs in the U.S., according to data from the Census Bureau compiled by Zippia Inc., which provides career information across various industries. They earn on average $27,795 a year, almost half of the average annual pay for the most common job held by white women, middle and elementary school teachers. 

Black Women’s Top Jobs Pay Half What White Women’s Do


But even if all the black home-health-care workers became teachers, it wouldn’t guarantee pay parity. Within jobs, black women make less than white women. Black elementary and middle school teachers make less than white elementary and middle school teachers, for example. That’s true across educational levels as well:  Black women with advanced degrees make $17 an hour less than white men with the same credentials, according to data from EPI. 

By some estimates, the wage gap for black women is getting worse. A new report from the New York City Comptroller’s Office found that the gap has widened for women in the city. In 2010, white men made $28,209 more than black women. In 2016, the median earnings for white men compared to black women increased to $31,858. (The Comptroller’s Office did not analyze the change for white women over the same period of time.) The San Francisco Fed last year also found a growing wage gap for black workers, a big portion of which the researchers attributed to “unexplained factors.”

 “It’s capturing the racial penalty that black women face,” said Wilson. “It really highlights the intersectionality that black women experience in the workforce.” 

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