April 2 marks Equal Pay Day—the date into 2019 that women had to work to earn as much money as men earned just in 2018.
It can be a confusing way to measure the gender wage gap of 80 cents on the dollar.
The April 2 date is calculated based on all women’s earnings, averaging together the income earned by white women, black women, Latina women, and all other demographic groups. But averages can be misleading.
The first Equal Pay Day of the year arrived on March 5 for Asian-American Pacific Islander women, denoting that the group earns 85 cents on the dollar relative to men—the smallest pay gap. But even that statistic can obscure the challenges faced by lower-income AAPI women, specifically Thai, Cambodian, Nepalese, Laotian, Hmong, and Burmese-American women who earn closer to 60 cents on the dollar.
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Next is the April 2 Equal Pay Day, averaging together the incomes of all racial groups for the 80 cents on the dollar gender wage gap. Equal Pay Day for white women, denoting a slightly larger gap, follows this year on April 19, according to the American Association of University Women.
After the April dates, there’s a four-month wait until the next Equal Pay Days roll around—a sign of how severe the pay gap is for black women, Native American women, and Latina women. Black Women’s Equal Pay Day will fall on Aug. 22, followed by Native American Women’s Equal Pay Day on Sept. 23, and Latinas’ Equal Pay Day on Nov. 20. That order means that Latinas face the largest wage gap, of around 53 cents on the dollar. Black women earn about 61 cents on the dollar and Native American women earn about 57 cents on the dollar.
Those discrepancies make the April 2 Equal Pay Day a confusing—and often misleading—milestone. But the averaged Equal Pay Day does give an opportunity for pay equity to be discussed by everyone.
Worldwide, women are paid an average of 23% less than men, according to the UN. According to the National Women’s Law Centre, the average woman would earn over $400,000 more during the course of her career if women were paid equally.