The color of a fair paycheck

By Michelle Chen Jan 29, 2009

The first piece of legislation President Obama signed into law helps inch forward the struggle for economic equity. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act won’t undo historically entrenched income gaps, but it will expand the timetable for workers to sue based on pay discrimination by gender, race, national origin or religion. The campaign surrounding the legislation focused on gender discrimination–highlighted by the story of Ledbetter’s legal challenge to the pay gap between her and her male coworkers. But fair pay ties into racial equity as well. Here’s an index from the Center for American Progress:

77 cents: Amount an average woman earns for every dollar the average man makes. 56 cents: Amount an average unmarried woman earns for every dollar an average married man makes. 81 cents: Amount an average Black woman earns for every dollar an average African-American man makes. 74 cents: Amount an average Latina woman earns for every dollar an average Hispanic man makes. 66 cents: Amount an average Asian woman earns for every dollar an average Asian man makes. 63 cents: Amount an average white woman earns for every dollar an average white man makes.

Some interesting factoids from the National Committee on Pay Equity on women of color:

"Among full-time, year-round workers, Black women with Bachelors’ degrees make only $1,545 more per year than white males who have only completed high school. … "In one year, the average Latina woman working full-time earns $17,837 less than the average white man does. Over a 30-year career, that adds up to $510,000!"

William M. Rodgers III recently explored the Black-White earnings gap as a product of myriad economic challenges that impact Blacks especially, but also, increasingly, all working-class Americans. As the economy sinks, the issue of economic inequity is taking on more nuanced shades.