Native American women lose nearly $1 million to the pay gap over their careers—and Covid-19 could make the disparity worse

Native American Women Lose Nearly $1 Million to the Pay Gap Over Their Careers—and COVID-19 Could Make the Disparity Worse

By Morgan Smith—Sept. 8, 2021

Nearly 3 in 10 Native American women are working on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic as essential workers, yet they face a staggering pay gap that the pandemic could widen, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

Native American women, on average, are paid approximately $0.60 for every dollar earned by White, non-Hispanic men. Over the course of a 40-year career, this wage gap costs them $986,240 — nearly $1 million. This equals about $24,656 in lost wages per year, which could pay for eight months of child care, five months of food and one year of rent for a working Native American woman. This wage gap means that Native American women would need to work an additional eight months into the new year — until Sept. 8 — to earn as much as their White, male colleagues made in 2020.

“Native American women have continuously worked through the pandemic, even now as we face new, scary variants of the virus, all while having to make hard choices about health risks and earnings,” Jasmine Tucker, NWLC’s director of research, tells CNBC Make It. “These frontline workers are underpaid and undervalued while we are relying on their labor like never before … it’s just shameful.”

Many of the jobs Native American women hold are in critical yet low-paying industries such as health care and administrative services. As a personal care aide or nurse’s assistant, for example, Native American women make 87 cents for every dollar White, non-Hispanic men make in these jobs.

The wage gap is wider for women in certain tribes. Women in the Navajo and Pueblo tribes, for example, only make about 53% of what their White male co-workers are paid. “Many Native women in these tribes are living on reservations in rural areas where there are fewer high-paid job options,” Tucker explains.

Even before the pandemic, the economic reality for Native American women was grim. In 2019, nearly 18% of Native American women and 21% of Native American children lived in poverty, according to the latest data available from the NWLC. The ongoing health crisis has only exacerbated the hardships Native American families are facing, Tucker adds, as working women have had to contend with lower salaries, job loss and an unstable economy at the same time.

Native American mothers working full-time are paid only 50 cents for every dollar a White, non-Hispanic father makes, amounting to a loss of $35,000 each year, the NWLC found. Comparatively, Black mothers lose about $33,600 annually and Latina mothers lose $38,000 to the wage gap. “That money could have paid for her higher education, a house for her kids, her kids’ educations,” Tucker says. “There’s all these missed opportunities to build wealth for her and her family, to weather the economic fallout of the pandemic, that she’s missed out on because of that wage gap.”

Read more at CNBC.

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