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For Latinas, the Lifetime Gender Wage Gap Is More Than $1 Million

April 4, 2016, 7:03 PM UTC
"Equal Pay Day" Protesters Demand Equal Pay For Women
BERLIN, GERMANY - MARCH 21: Flags reading 'Equal Pay Day' are seen during the 'Equal Pay Day' demonstration on March 21, 2014 in Berlin, Germany. The annual event recognizes the wage gap between the sexes in the country, where women's salaries still lag behind that of men, particularly in the states that were once East Germany. (Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images)
Photograph by Adam Berry — Getty Images

For women, making an average of 79 cents for every dollar a man makes is infuriating enough. But for some women of color, those nickels and dimes can add up in major way: more than $1 million over their course of their careers.

A new study of Census Bureau data from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) shows that, based on today’s median wage gap, women can expect to lose $430,480 over the course of a 40-year career compared to what the typical white men makes during the same time period. For African American women, that gap grows to $877,480. Latinas, meanwhile, leave a grand total of more than $1 million on the table.

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In some states the gaps are even more pronounced. Seven states show an overall difference of more than half a million dollars. Louisiana, a state with one of the largest gaps, has a gap of $671,840 for women overall, $1.13 million for African-American women, $1.18 million for Latinas, $1.1 million for Native America women, and $779,000 for Asian-American women.

Among the states with the smallest gaps was Florida, where the general median gap was $248,120, $769,720 for African-American women, $813,720 for Latinas, $524,400 for Asian-American women, and, for Native American women, $704,680.


“Our analysis is based on the assumption that the wage gap is steady over the years,” Emily Martin, NWLC general counsel and vice president for workplace justice, told Fortune. “In fact, what you see is that the wage gap gets bigger over the course of a woman’s career.” Therefore, the estimated gaps likely understate the actual financial impact. “[Women] start out making less,” she said. “If you start making a little less and then your raises are based on a percentage of your salary, the gap grows over time.”

A number of factors play into the difference. “Women are over represented in low-wage jobs,” said Kate Gallagher Robbins, NWLC director of research and policy analysis. On the flip side, some occupations that require advanced degrees or skills, including doctors and surgeons, have larger than average gender wage gaps.

Addressing the gap would require action on a number of fronts over time, according to Martin. That would include increasing the minimum wage—which would help women in low-wage jobs—strengthening discrimination laws, addressing entry barriers to higher-paying positions, and ensuring that women aren’t penalized for their caregiving roles in families by mandating paid leave and fair work schedules.

“I do think that we are seeing state legislative action on various fronts,” including protection for employees to discuss wages with one another without employer retaliation, as well as strengthening remedies for pay discrimination, she says. Other bright spots include the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission plans to collect wage data, adds Martin, which should increase employer pay reviews and give enforcement organizations agencies more information for policing gender pay discrimination.