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Latina Women Most Underpaid, Most Likely to Lose Jobs in Pandemic

WASHINGTON—Latina workers with full-time jobs last year earned only 57-cents for every dollar made by non-Hispanic white men, the Economic Policy Institute [EPI] said in a brief report released for Latina Equal Pay Day, Oct. 21.

The shortfall, the EPI said, came both from the types of jobs Latinas more commonly do, and because they get paid significantly less than white men do for similar work.

Before the pandemic, EPI said, 14.6% of Latina workers were employed in the leisure and hospitality industry, twice the percentage of white, non-Hispanic men whose jobs are in that field. Overall, 30.4% of Latina workers were employed in lower-wage service occupations that could not be converted to remote work when the virus hit, while only 11.6% of white men were.

The data, however, also showed that Latinas made significantly less than white men with the same job titles, based on EPI analysis of figures from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey from 2014 to 2019. Last year, using the same figures, EPI estimated that on an hourly basis, Latina workers make 67-cents for every dollar made by non-Hispanic white men with similar levels of education, ages, and geographic locations.

This year, EPI focused on “major occupations at the center of national efforts to address COVID-19.” Those included “frontline workers in health care and essential businesses like grocery stores, those who have borne the brunt of job losses in the restaurant industry, and teachers and child care workers.”

The pay gap was widest in professional occupations. Latina surgeons averaged $42.95 an hour, barely two-thirds of the $63.41 their white male colleagues in the operating room got paid on average. 

In predominantly female professions, Latina registered nurses averaged $30.33 an-hour, $4.54 less than white men. White male elementary and middle-school teachers averaged $33.75 per hour, $5.37 more than Latinas at the front of the classroom.

In the much lower-paying field of child care, Latinas averaged almost one-sixth less, $12.83 an-hour compared with $15.21.

In restaurants and retail, service jobs risky because of exposure to the public during the pandemic (and the occasional danger of being assaulted by a crank violently offended by being told they have to wear a mask indoors), white male waitstaff averaged $10.51 an-hour before tips, Latinas $9.92. Latina cashiers averaged $11.68 an-hour, $1.23 less than white men.

Latinas were also much more likely to lose their jobs during the pandemic. More than one-sixth did, the highest rate for any combination of ethnicity and sex, according to Current Population Survey figures analyzed by EPI. That, the report said, was largely as a result of their being concentrated in the leisure and hospitality industry, which was hardest hit by job losses: As of September 2021, the number of people employed in that field was still 1.6 million less than what it was in February 2020. 

Job losses during the pandemic correlated strongly with race, somewhat less so with sex. According to the Census Bureau data, the number of white men working full-time year-round fell by 9.2% between 2019 and 2020, and it declined by 9.9% for white women. For Black men, the loss was 13%; for Black women, 13.1%. Among Latino men, the number of job-holders dropped by 16.3%; for women, it was 17.4%. 

“For Latina moms, the wage gap is even more punitive: just 46 cents on the dollar compared to white dads,” Xochitl Oseguera, vice president of MamásConPoder, the Spanish-language branch of MomsRising, an organization for working mothers, said in a statement Oct. 21. “More than half of Latina moms are their families’ primary breadwinners. We cannot have a just recovery without addressing these disparities.”

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