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Latinas can 'work until they die' and never recover wage gap losses, expert says

Latinas working full time, year-round face lifetime losses that surpass $1.1 million, according to Jasmine Tucker of the National Women’s Law Center.
Image: employee bagging groceries at El Presidente grocery store
An employee at El Presidente grocery store bags groceries, in Miami Beach, Fla., on Dec. 18.Jeff Greenberg / Getty Images file

Women of all races who worked full time, year-round in 2020 were paid on average just 83 cents for every dollar paid to men, according to a National Women's Law Center report released ahead of Equal Pay Day on Tuesday.

The symbolic day marks how far into the year most women must work to earn what men were paid in the previous year.

“It seems like it’s just a few pennies on the dollar, but it adds up,” Jasmine Tucker, the report’s author, told NBC News. “But Latinas in particular face some of the largest wage gaps.”

Latinas only earn 57 cents for every dollar paid to a non-Hispanic man — meaning they have to work at least 21 months, nearly two years, to match a white man’s yearly income.

“The wage gap is the widest for them. It doesn’t matter if it’s a high-paying job. It doesn’t matter if it’s a low-paying job,” Tucker, who is Latina, said.

In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the economy and national labor market. Women lost about 12 million jobs between February and April of that year and are still short over 1.4 million jobs since the pandemic's start.

The job losses disproportionately impacted low-wage workers in industries such as leisure and hospitality as well as in restaurants, hotels and retail — all workplaces in which Latinas tend to be overrepresented, Tucker said.

“But it doesn’t matter what job we’re looking at. Ninety-four percent of occupations have a wage gap, and consistently, across the board, Latinas are paid some of the lowest wages,” Tucker said.

Latinas experienced the largest decline in employment from February to May 2020, with about 21 percent of Latinas in the workforce losing their jobs.

While unemployment numbers have decreased this year, the Latina unemployment rate remains at 4.8 percent, compared to the overall jobless rate of 3.8 percent.

Tucker estimated that Latinas lose close to $29,000 every year due to pay disparities. That's enough money to pay for college tuition or afford "a nice down payment on a house," she said.

"She could have helped build this generational wealth that she could pass down to her family. So it's really robbing her whole family, not just her," Tucker added.

Income inequality costs the average woman $417,400 in losses over the course of a 40-year career, according to the report. If the current wage gap persists, the average woman would have to work until she is 72 to be paid what a man has been paid by age 60.

But Latinas working full time, year-round face typical lifetime losses that surpass $1.1 million, making it "impossible for Latinas to ever catch up," Tucker said.

"They're being robbed of $1.1 million over their career," she said. "Latinas are either going to have to work until they die, if they’re going to try and recover any of this gap, or she's going to lose that money."

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