Even With Advanced Degrees, Black Women Earn Less Than White Men

Members of Howard University's Class of 2017 await the start of the commencement ceremony on May 17. (Travis Riddick/The Washington Informer)
Members of Howard University's Class of 2017 await the start of the commencement ceremony on May 17. (Travis Riddick/The Washington Informer)

Black women have to work seven extra months to earn what White men were paid in 2016. On average, Black women make 67 cents on the dollar compared to White men.

In a recent blog post to mark Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, researchers at the Economic Policy Institute analyzed and debunked myths concerning the reasons why Black women earn less than White men.

Some people mistakenly believe that if Black women simply worked harder, they would earn higher wages.

However, according to EPI, the truth is that, “Black women work more hours than White women. They have increased work hours 18.4 percent since 1979, yet the wage gap relative to White men has grown.”

The EPI blog post said that the growth in annual hours is “larger for Black women than for White women and men” who work in low-paying jobs and that, “both Black and White workers have increased their number of annual hours in response to slow wage growth” and “working moms are significant contributors to this trend.”

Half of Black women who have jobs are working moms compared to 44.5 percent of White women.

Another common myth associated with the pay gap between Black women and White men is that Black women would earn higher wages, if they were more educated.

“Two-thirds of Black women in the workforce have some postsecondary education, 29.4 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher,” the blog post said. “Black women are paid less than White men at every level of education.”

According to EPI, Black women with less than a high school diploma make $10.62 on average compared to White men who make $15.16. Black women with advanced degrees earn $31.57 compared to White men, who make $48.27.

The racial wage gap persists in jobs dominated by Black women and jobs dominated by White men, according to EPI, dispelling the myth that Black women earn less due to their career choices.

“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,” according to EPI researchers.

Valerie Wilson, the director of race, ethnicity, and the economy at EPI said that career choice and education have little to do with the pay gap between Black women and White men.

“Black women, whether they make the same career choice [as White men] or not, will still earn less than White men,” said Wilson. “This can be in any career choice whether it is a male- dominated or a female-dominated career. We have seen that even in fields that are more common for women, men still make more than Black women in that career field.”

Wilson said that even though wages are growing faster for women than men, Black women still don’t see much benefit.

“While White women do make less than White men, they still earn quite a bit more than Black women,” said Wilson. “Women’s Equal Pay Day was held sometime in April while Black Women’s Equal Pay day is held in July.”

While the wage gap for Black women is caused by both gender and racial disparities, there are still ways to help minimize and close the pay gap between Black women and their counterparts.

Wilson said that economic policy in the U.S. can play a much larger role in minimizing the pay gap.

“We have anti-discrimination laws, but we must enforce those laws and ensure they are effective. There also has to be greater pay transparency,” said Wilson. “Other things that can help raise wages is collective bargaining. Also, Black women are known to be in lower-paying occupations, so raising the minimum wage would be very helpful.”

Wilson continued: “We need to make sure that Black women are fighting and being paid what they’re worth.”

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