In the News
Univison Op-Ed: We need investments in the care economy to help close the wage gap for Latinas
Washington, October 21, 2021
Tags: Civil Rights
This year's Latina Equal Pay Day is different for Latinas in Houston, El Paso, and across Texas. Our country is still grappling with the effects of a pandemic that took the lives of nearly 718,000 people and forced out at least 5.5 million women from the workforce. Our home state of Texas, ranking second for most COVID-19 deaths, is also trailing behind the rest of the country in closing the wage gap for Texan Latinas, who currently earn 11 cents less than other Latinas in our nation.
Latinas still make approximately 57 cents for every dollar a white non-Hispanic man makes, which means that it takes Latinas almost two years to make what a non-Hispanic white man made in one. For Latinas in Texas, the wage gap is even worse as they receive only 46 cents for every dollar non-Hispanic white men get.
The wage gap for Latinas in Texas already represents a heartbreaking and dire situation. Still, it gets even worse for Latina mothers - they make a mere 39 cents for every dollar a non-Hispanic white father makes.
Beyond the clear injustice of unequal pay for a Latina's equal work, we know that Latinas are doing the job our country desperately relies on to keep moving.
Latinas are essential workers who are carrying out much of the caregiving work in our country. Roughly 1 in 5 child care workers and over a quarter of domestic caregiving workers nationwide are Latinas. They contribute to the growth and education of our children and take care of the ten thousand Americans who turn 65 every day so they can get the care they deserve to age safely and with dignity.
Yet the pay gap Latinas experience every day harms their and their families' economic stability, as well as opportunities for economic growth. The poverty rates for Latinas and Black women are over 50% higher than those of other women child care workers in the country. And in Texas, over 55% of this workforce receives public benefits.
Latinos who work in domestic labor have significantly higher poverty rates as well. These hardworking women of color are the backbone of the early education sector, but they're not getting paid a living wage for the critical services they provide to families. With a full investment in child care, wages for Hispanic child care workers would go up by 24%.
Women deserve investments in the care economy. It is not a secret that our mothers, tías y abuelas were often the primary or sole breadwinners for their families when the pandemic began. In our country, 41.4% of Latinas in the workforce were heads of households with exorbitant child care costs, often consuming more than one-third of their incomes. This is unacceptable.
The benefits of investing in child care for Latinas across the country, but especially in our Texas communities, are endless. With heavy investments in child care to improve accessibility and affordability, Latina moms in particular could see a net increase in their income throughout their lifetime – Latina moms with two children would see an additional $115,000 in earnings and savings.
On Latina Equal Pay Day this year, let's highlight the great work our mamas, tías, abuelas y comadres do for our economy to thrive, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic, and spread awareness about their pay gap. Women, but especially Latinas, must not be penalized for caregiving. Instead, it's time to recognize that caregiving is essential work, and everyone should be paid equally for equal work.
Now, we have the opportunity of a lifetime to invest in accessible and affordable child, elder, and disability care and create a federal paid leave program to make these benefits a reality.
Making these investments in our care infrastructure means Latinas can rejoin the workforce and get to work on equal conditions to continue building back better. Let's get it done!
Sylvia Garcia (TX-29) and Veronica Escobar (TX-16) are Democratic Women’s Caucus Vice Chairs; Ana Gonzalez is the Workers Defense Action Fund Policy Director