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News from EPI The Hispanic–white wage gap has remained wide and held steady for decades

In a new EPI paper, Professor of Economics at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Marie Mora and Professor and Dean of the Harrison College of Business at Southeast Missouri State University Alberto Dávila examine the Hispanic–white wage gap among full-time workers, including how it is affected by gender, Hispanic subgroup, education level, birthplace, immigrant status, and generational status.

In 2017, Hispanic men working full-time made 14.9 percent less in hourly wages than comparable white men (an improvement from 17.8 percent in 2000), while Hispanic women made 33.1 percent less than comparable white men (a small improvement from 35.1 percent in 2000). This gap has remained wide and relatively steady since 2000, for Hispanic men and women overall and for most of the largest subgroups by national origin.

“It’s clear that Hispanic workers still lag behind their white peers in many regards,” said Mora. “But it’s important to point out that Hispanic workers are not a homogeneous group. This analysis shows clear differences based on factors like where Hispanic workers are from, how educated they are, and how long their families have lived in the United States.”

Mora and Dávila also look at the unemployment and labor force participation rates (LFPR) over time for the Hispanic population overall, as well as by gender and by national origin (specifically Mexican American, Puerto Rican, and Cuban American)—comparing these rates with the overall population. They find that the Hispanic unemployment rate is consistently higher than the overall unemployment rate. Meanwhile, the LFPR for Hispanic men is higher than the LFPR for men overall, while the LFPR for Hispanic women is lower than the LFPR for women overall.

“There are many causes for concern in this analysis, but there are some reasons to be optimistic,” said Dávila. “For example, Hispanic workers clearly place value on education and Hispanic education attainment is growing—but we need to make sure that Hispanic Americans have access to high quality, affordable education.”

Other key findings of the paper include:

  • Controlling for education and other factors significantly lowers the hourly wage gap between Hispanic men and non-Hispanic white men working full-time. This suggests that for Hispanic men, much of the earnings gap might be explained by a host of factors such as education, experience, and regional differences in cost of living. However controlling for these same factors does not lower the hourly wage gap between Hispanic women and white men nearly as much: for Hispanic women, both the adjusted and unadjusted wage gaps have remained fairly steady and large since 1979. This suggests that for Hispanic women, ethnic and gender discrimination, and other forms of discrimination, might be at play.
  • Wage gaps between second-generation Hispanic immigrants (those born in the U.S. to at least one foreign-born parent) and second-generation non-Hispanic white immigrants were narrower than wage gaps between first-generation Hispanic and white immigrants (those born outside the U.S.), consistent with the notion that as successive generations of immigrants assimilate, their labor market outcomes improve.
  • While the share of Hispanics with a bachelor’s degree or more education has risen steadily over the last four decades, Hispanics have not been able to close the Hispanic-white “college attainment gap.” For Hispanic women, this gap has stayed relatively stable over this period, while for Hispanic men, the college attainment gap has widened.