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Latinas make about half the pay of white men, but work just as hard

For Latinas, the wide wage gap adds up over a lifetime. It means Latinas working full time will lose roughly $1.2 million in earnings over the course of a 40-year career.

Lidia Vilorio, a home health aide, made the bed for her patient on May 5, 2021, in Haverstraw, N.Y.Michael M. Santiago/Getty

Imagine having to work nearly double the time of one of your co-workers to earn the same amount of money.

Sadly, that’s not hyperbole. Latinas working full or part time earned just 54 cents for every dollar paid to the average white, non-Hispanic man in 2021, according to estimates from Justice for Migrant Women based on the latest US Census data. It’s one of the widest pay gaps among racial and ethnic groups, ranking near the bottom, just above Native American women, who make 51 cents for every dollar the average white, non-Hispanic man earns. Meanwhile, white, non-Hispanic women in full-time and part-time jobs make 83 cents on the same dollar.


For Latinas, the wide wage gap adds up over a lifetime. It means Latinas working full time will lose roughly $1.2 million in earnings over the course of a 40-year career. What’s worse, digging into country-of-origin data reveals wider disparities: a Honduran woman makes 44 cents for every dollar earned by the average white, non-Hispanic man.

Because it takes nearly an extra year, or an additional 341 days on average, for Latina workers to make the same annual amount of pay as their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts, Latina Equal Pay Day was observed on Dec. 8 to illustrate how far into the new year Latinas must work to catch up.

At the federal level, advocates for economic fairness for Latinas have highlighted critical pieces of legislation that Congress must pass. Among those are the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would require employers to offer reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers, such as more frequent bathroom breaks and the option to sit during shifts, and the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would allow for greater transparency and reporting of disparities in wages and ban employers from retaliating against employees if they discuss wages.


“[I]t is clear that we are not working half as hard, it is clear that we are not half as good at our jobs, and we are not half as qualified,” Mónica Ramírez, cofounder of The Latinx House and chair of the annual Latina Equal Pay Day campaign, told Fortune last week. She is right.

In Massachusetts, things are not any better for Latina workers. A recent report from the Mauricio Gastón Institute for Latino Community Development & Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston found that “Latina workers earn lower median wage incomes when compared to Non-Latinas and Latino men.” Non-Hispanic women working full time in the Commonwealth earn 51 percent more than their Latina counterparts, according to the study. The wage gap varies but persists across age, educational attainment, and other factors. Notably, the report also found that Latinas work disproportionately in several occupational categories: Roughly 70 percent of Latinas have jobs in eight major categories, such as office and administrative support, food preparation and serving, and personal care and service, among others. “These occupations pay lower wages,” wrote the authors of the study.

That’s a double whammy for Latinas. Low-income jobs don’t typically offer benefits such as workplace flexibility and paid leave. Being a home health aide or a housecleaner requires Latinas to work outside their homes and they often need child care for their own children or elder care for older relatives. But the high cost of those services in the state far too often forces Latinas to leave the labor market or work fewer hours.


“The issue continues to be the invisibility of the Latino workforce in the state,” Lorna Rivera, director of the Gastón Institute and lead author of the report, said in an interview. But Hispanics are the future workforce and Massachusetts policy makers cannot afford to ignore their needs any longer. “Nearly 30 percent of Latinas are under 17 years of age and only 19 percent are over the age of 55.”

Rivera said that affordable, high-quality child care and multilingual approaches to workforce training are two policy priorities to tackle the Latina wage gap in the state, as well as expanding guaranteed income programs (such as the one in Chelsea) and passing legislation to bring heightened transparency around salaries to make inequities more visible. Just as important is to pay attention to the incoming class of Latino and Latina state lawmakers who will be taking office in January and how much power they’re going to have to leverage on behalf of their communities, Rivera said.

Studies such as the Gastón Institute’s provide an insightful snapshot of the disparities. But perhaps what’s needed most is ongoing transparency, such as the New York law that requires compensation rates be included in job ads. That kind of information might prevent some of the abuses that lead to the devaluing of Latinas’ work.


Marcela García is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at marcela.garcia@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @marcela_elisa and on Instagram @marcela_elisa.