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The Gender Pay Gap: For Black Women, Just One Barrier to Economic Mobility

By Tatsuko Go Hollo 

A comprehensive report by the Black Women’s Roundtable, a nonprofit that seeks equitable public policy, details the multitude of disparities faced by black women living, working and raising families in the United States. The report assessed conditions of black women in areas of health, education, labor force participation, wages, retirement security, safety, civic engagement and more.

The report’s findings include:  Maternal mortality is especially high among black women, who are three times more likely to die in childbirth than white women.

It is clear that race matters when it comes to economic mobility. A study from the Economic Opportunity Institute called “Chutes and Ladders” found that black people born into the lowest tier of the income scale were less likely to achieve upward mobility when compared to their white counterparts. Nationally, nearly two-thirds of black people are raised in the bottom quintile, compared to just 11 percent of white people. People of color, and especially women of color, are much more likely to work minimum wage jobs and live below the poverty level. The racial wealth gap is significantly worse than the income gap and has widened over the last several decades, according to a report issued last year by the Urban Institute.

The reality is that discrimination is a significant factor in the disparities that people of color live every day. However, gaps in public policy have no doubt contributed to increasing inequality.

Here in Washington there are several solutions that would have dramatic impacts for the state’s women of color:

Addressing the disparities faced by black women would certainly increase their ability to achieve upward mobility, but it would also address the roadblocks to economic security faced by so many Washington workers and their families. Good jobs — those that provide a living wage, paid leave, retirement contributions and health coverage — have become increasingly more scarce, despite a more experienced and better educated workforce. Without policy interventions, those at the bottom rungs will continue to fall further behind.

Tatsuko Go Hollo is a policy associate at the Economic Opportunity Institute and a PSARA member. 

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