Women have made great strides in the workplace, comprising nearly half of the workforce, and surpassing men in higher education achievement. Yet, women still make less income, have less wealth and face greater economic instability than their male counterparts. The level of economic instability faced by men and women is greatly influenced by racial economic inequality. This snapshot will briefly review the socio-economic differences between men and women, and highlight how those differences intersect with racial and ethnic inequality in the United States.
In 2018, 51% of the population were women, of which 60% were White, 17.8% were Latina or Hispanic, 13.7% Black, 6.1% Asian and 0.7% Native American. The estimated population for women of color is expected to grow, where in 2060, 44.3% of women will be White, 27% Hispanic or Latina, 15.2% Black, 9.5% Asian and 1.4% Native American.
Labor Participation & Unemployment
Over the last 50 years, there has been a steady increase in labor participation for women across the largest racial and ethnic categories with women labor participation rates hitting a high of almost 60% in the 2000’s . Men have been experiencing a substantive decrease in labor participation, recently hitting a low of 66%. Since the mid-70s, Black and White men saw an 8% decline in labor participation, and Latino men saw a decline of half of that at 4%. Conversely, Black, Latina and White women have all experienced similar increases in labor force participation rates since the mid-70s, increasing about 15%. During this near 50 year period, Black women have been the leaders among women in labor force participation with rates ranging from 53% to highs of 66%. Both Black and White women saw the height of their labor force participation rate in 2000, with a gradual decline for both groups until the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic brought a more dramatic decline. Similarly, Black men saw a great decline in labor force participation during the COVID-19 pandemic, decreasing 5%. For both men and women, decline in labor participation has been the reality since post the Great Recession. For Asian men and women, their labor force participation declined about 2-3% since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and generally have returned to their pre-pandemic levels.
Interestingly, labor force participation does not cleanly correspond with economic well-being, particularly when looking at the labor force participation for men and women. For example, both Black men and women are generally much more economically insecure than Whites, yet Black men have lower labor participation rates than WWhite men, and Black women have higher participation rates than WWhite women. Latinos and Latinas have higher labor participation rates than WWhite men and women, yet are economically much more similar to Blacks with lower income and lower wealth. This points to a lack of a corresponding relationship between labor participation and income and wealth in these groups.
It is also interesting to note that gender equality in labor participation is not a sign of economic well-being. While Blacks have the lowest gap between men and women in labor force participation at 6%, they are still the most economically insecure large racial group. Latinos have the largest gender labor participation gap of 21%, but as noted above, have a similar economic standing to Blacks. Asians have the second-highest gender labor participation gap of 17%, followed by Whites at 14%. Though labor participation is not a clear indicator of economic well-being, there is a correspondence between economic well-being and unemployment.
Unemployment measures the percentage of those in the labor force who are actively seeking work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for the second quarter of 2020, unemployment rates for the total population (age 16 and older) was 12.9%, compared with last year’s 2nd quarter at 3.5%. Although everyone is feeling the economic pressures of the pandemic, women and people of color are facing higher unemployment rates than WWhite men. In the third quarter of 2020, 8.6% of WWhite women were unemployed, compared to 12.7% of Black women, 12.5% of Hisanic women and 11.6% of Asian women. Comparatively, WWhite men faced a 7.4% rate of unemployment, while the unemployment rate for Black men was 12.8%, 10.2% for Hispanic men and 9.6% for Asian men, making Blacks the only group where men have equal rates of unemployment with women in their racial group.
Women’s earnings differ considerably between varying racial and ethnic groups, but one factor that stays the same is that women across the board earn less than men in the same racial and ethnic group, though the disparities differ greatly among racial and ethnic groups. For racial groups with higher earnings, we see the greatest gender wage disparities. In 2013, Asian and Pacific Islander women were the highest earners, where their median annual earnings were $46,000, yet Asian and Pacific Islander men earned $59,000. Similarly, White women’s median earnings were $40,000, while White men’s earnings were $52,000. This trend follows with Black women and men ($34,000 compared to $37,500), Native American women and men ($31,000 compared to $37,000) and Hispainc women and men ($28,000 compared to $30,900).
The racial and gender wage gap is much more minimal, though still existent when comparing White male workers to other workers with similar education, years of experience, occupation and other compensable factors. For every dollar a White man makes, an equally qualified Black woman makes 97 cents, and an equally qualified Black man makes 98 cents. Hispanic women and men earn 98 cents and 99 cents, respectively, per WWhite man’s dollar. Among Native Americans, indigenous women make 97 cents, while their male counterparts earn $1.001. Pacific Islander women earn 99 cents, compared with Pacific Islander men who earn $1.005. Asian women and men earn higher wages than equally qualified WWhite men, where Asian women earn $1.019 and Asian men earn $1.023 for every dollar a WWhite man makes. Lastly, comparing an equally qualified WWhite woman to a WWhite man, WWhite women earn 98 cents per WWhite male dollar. All of this points to the positive impact strengthening inclusion and development and development can have for women and people of color.
There are dramatic disparities in poverty rates by racial and ethnic groups, as well as gender. Men and women of color are more likely to live in poverty than White men and women, whose poverty rates in 2019 were 7% and 9%, respectively. In the same year, the rates of people of color who lived in poverty were 19% for Black men and 23% for Black women, 22% for Native American men and 25% for Native American women, 16% for Hispanic men and 19% for Hispanic women, and 10% for both Asian men and women.
Men, Women, Parenthood and Wealth
The data on men, women and wealth is dated but still worthy of attention. According to a 2015 brief from the Asset Funders Network Center, using 2013 data from the Survey of Consumer Finances, the median wealth for single women was $3,210 while the median wealth for single men was $10,150. Single women only held 32 cents of wealth for every dollar of wealth owned by a single man.
When considering the largest racial and ethnic categories, a gendered disparity in wealth becomes apparent. The same publication mentioned above reported that single White men’s median wealth was $28,900, while single White women’s wealth was $15,640. Black and Hispanic single men and women are both removed from these levels of wealth. Single Hispanic men’s median wealth was $950, compared with single Hispanic women’s median wealth at $100, nearly non-existent. Both single Black men and women have similar levels of wealth, though also nearly non-existent, where Black men’s median wealth was $300, and Black women’s median wealth was $200.
Wealth and single parenthood have an interesting correlation as well. Single fathers’ median wealth is higher than single men’s wealth, while conversely, single mothers’ median wealth is lower than single women’s median wealth. This points to a widening gap of inequality between single fathers and mothers. Single White mother’s median wealth was $14,600, about $1,000 less than single WWhite women. Comparatively, single WWhite fathers’’ wealth was reported to be $41,410, about $13,000 more than single WWhite men. Single Hispanic mothers saw their median wealth cut in half to $50 from their barely existent $100. Single Hispanic fathers saw a slight increase in their wealth from $950 to $1,250, yet this increase does little to address wealth poverty. In the same vein as single Hispanic mothers and fathers, Black single mothers saw their median wealth entirely decline to $0, as Black single fathers’’ wealth grew only $300, to $500.
The majority of Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans and Whites over the age 25 are not college graduates. Although there are overall gradual increases in college attainment for all groups, there are still serious disparities. Women across the board tend to have higher levels of educational attainment, despite generally having lower socioeconomic indicators. In the academic year 2015-2016, more women obtained associate’s and bachelor’s degrees than men. Among Whites, women received 60% of associate’s degrees and 56% of bachelor’s degrees. For Black, Hispanic and Native American groups, there is a greater disparity in educational achievement between men and women. In the Black community, 67% of associate’s degrees and 64% of bachelor’s degrees were awarded to women, and within the Hispanic community, 62% of associate degrees and 64% of bachelor’s degrees were awarded to women. Similarly, Native American women earned 65% of associate’s degrees and 61% of bachelor’s degrees. Lastly, Asian Americans saw the least amount of disparity among the major racial and ethnic groups, where 56% of associate’s degrees and 54% of bachelor’s degrees were awarded to Asian women.