Latina Equal Pay Day: Latina workers remain greatly underpaid, including in front-line occupations

October 21 is Latina Equal Pay Day. Last year, a typical Latina worker who worked full-time, year-round earned only 57 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men. This means that Latinas on average must work nearly 22 months to earn what white, non-Hispanic men earn in 12 months.

The infographics below take a closer look at average hourly wages of Latinas and non-Hispanic white men employed in major occupations at the center of national efforts to address COVID-19, based on our previous analysis of Current Population Survey data from 2014-2019. These occupations include front-line workers in health care and essential businesses like grocery stores, those who have borne the brunt of job losses in the restaurant industry, and teachers and child care workers. We found that Latina workers make between 6% to 32% less than non-Hispanic white men in these occupations.

Not only are Latina workers earning less, they are also experiencing higher unemployment from the pandemic-driven economic downturn as a result of being heavily concentrated in the leisure and hospitality industry, which was hardest hit by job losses. As of September 2021, leisure and hospitality was still 1.6 million jobs short of February 2020 employment levels. Prior to the pandemic, 14.6% of Latina workers were employed in the leisure and hospitality industry compared with only 7.3% of white, non-Hispanic men. Additionally, 30.4% of Latina women, but just 11.6% of white men, were employed in lower-wage service occupations that could not be converted to remote work. Thus, between 2019 and 2020 the number of full-time, year-round Latina earners declined 17.4%, compared with a 9.2% decline for white men.

Figure B

Percent change in full-time year-round earners by race, ethnicity and gender, 2019-2020

White Black Hispanic
Men -9.2% -12.3% -16.3%
Women -9.9% -12.9% -17.4%


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Note: White refers to non-Hispanic whites, Black refers to Black alone, and Hispanic refers to Hispanics of any race.

Source: EPI analysis of Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement Historical Poverty Tables (Table P-38).

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As these figures show, Latinas have been among the most hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shock. It is incumbent upon policymakers to ensure a strong and equitable recovery and equal pay for Latina workers.