Here's the Truth About How Much Black Women Make in the U.S.

July 31st 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute, black women make 67 cents for every dollar non-Hispanic white men make. Due to this disparity, it takes an additional seven months of work into the next calendar year for black women to "catch up" to what white men made in the previous year. Thus, the last day of that seventh month, July 31, is being hailed as Black Women's Equal Pay Day to raise awareness about this persistent and troubling pay gap.

"I think if you're going to talk about gender equity, then you have to talk about black women," Economic Policy Institute (EPI) Director of Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy Valerie Wilson, told ATTN: "If we're going to address the whole gap we have to address it for each group because it's not the same for each group." 


However, some people are using the hashtag #BlackWomensEqualPay to accuse black women of having a poor work ethic and lacking education. 

The truth is black women work hard and still come up short. 

Here are three popular myths about the pay gap for black women debunked by researchers at EPI. 

1. There is a myth that black women lack work ethic. 

In reality, black women work more hours than white women and the growth in the number of working hours for low-income black women is more than white women and men. It's also worth noting that white women make 76 cents for every dollar white men make. 

"Among lower paid workers, the growth in annual hours is larger for black women than for white women and men," wrote the EPI researchers. "This trend is particularly striking for the lowest wage workers."

2. There is a myth that if more black women pursued education more, they could fix the pay gap. 

In fact, two-thirds of working black women have post-secondary education and nearly 25 percent have a bachelor's degree. Even with the same  level of education, black women are paid less than white men. 

"As black women increase their educational attainment, their pay gap with white men continues to grow," read the EPI report. "The largest gap, of nearly $17 an hour, occurs for workers with more than a college degree. But even black women with an advanced degree earn less, slightly more than $7 an hour less, than white men who only have a bachelor’s degree."

ATTN: previously reported that black women are one of the most educated groups in the U.S. 

Black women are now America's most educated group.

Posted by ATTN: Video on Sunday, May 22, 2016

3. There is a myth that black women simply pick jobs that pay less than other careers. 

When women are the majority at a particular job, they're still paid less. 

"Even in female dominated occupations, men are earning more than women in those occupations," said Wilson. 

It is true that black women are often find employment in jobs already dominated by other black women, however, the wage gap persists in jobs dominated by black women and by white men. 

"While white male physicians and surgeons earn, on average, $18 per hour more than black women doing the same job, the gap for retail salespersons is also shocking, at more than $9 an hour," reads the report. 

How do we fix this? 

Wilson said that there are three key things that could change the pay gap. 

  • Workers need to be better informed about their rights and their pay. 
  • Employers should be forced to disclose pay information by gender and race. 
  • Employers shouldn't be able to ask about a previous salary. 
  • We should raise the federal minimum wage. 

Wilson noted that workers often don't know when they have the right to file a complaint, and demand workplace discrimination laws are enforced. 

It's also time for companies to become transparent about breakdowns of pay by race and gender for different positions. 

"A better way of going about it is to have a policy of pay transparency that requires companies to report what they pay workers by gender and race," she said. "I think that goes further than just saying workers should be able to talk to each other, because then you actually have it documented." 

Wilson also said that companies should be blocked from asking an employee about a previous salary, because it can continue the cycle of lower pay. 

"If I'm going to get a new job because I felt like I was being underpaid, the new employer shouldn't be able to peg my new wages to my old ones," she said. 

Finally, although many states have raised their minimum wage, the federal minimum wage has been stalled at $7.25 an hour since 2009 and black women are disproportionately represented in lower wage jobs.

The larger equal pay movement and black women. 

On Equal Pay Day in April, The Cut's Brittany Packnett wrote that the broader feminist movement needs to be more inclusive and aware of the unique struggles of black women. 

"The silencing of the unique grievances of women of color is precisely why many of us felt betrayed by our white sisters on November 8, and decided not to attend the Women’s March," she wrote. "And frankly, the movement toward equal pay has been slow to break this curse."

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