Divergent Revolutions for Blacks, Latinos and Whites

March 06, 2012

This post originally appeared on the Council on Contemporary Families’ website in response to the article “Is the Gender Revolution Over?”

As Cotter, Hermsen, and Vanneman argue, the extent of the gender revolution has been exaggerated. In the years between the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963 and 2010, the pay gap has closed at less than half-a-cent per year. Currently, women make about 75 percent as much as men.

Some racial groups, however, have experienced more closing of the gap. In 1980, black women earned 76 percent of what black men earned. By 1990, that had risen to 88 percent.  The rate of progress did slow in the 1990s, as Cotter et al found for women as a whole. Still, by 2010, black women made 92 percent as much as black men, which at first glance suggests more progress in gender equality among African-Americans.

Part of this greater convergence in wages is caused by a divergence in educational completion. In 1980, equal numbers (17 percent) of black men and women had a college degree or higher. Thirty years later, the percent of black women with a bachelor’s or advanced degree had risen to 19 percent but dropped to 16 percent for men, which suggests that the progress of black men may have stalled more than the progress of black women.

Another part of this story is stagnating wages for black men. Between 1980 and 2010, the median hourly wage for black men increased only 30 cents, from $14.08 to $14.43. Over the same time period, black women’s median wage increased more than $2.50, from $10.67 to $13.21; although it is important to note that it started from a much lower base and remains below that of men.

Like their black counterparts, Latina women made 92 percent of Latino men’s earnings in 2010. However, in this case the decline in the pay gap has been gradual but steady, with no fall-off in the 1990s. Latina women earned 76 percent of Latino men’s earnings in 1980 and 83 percent in 1990. Between 1990 and 2010, Latinas gained another 9 percent.

Again, though, this narrowing is more a result of “meeting in the middle” than of catch-up. Latino men’s wages actually decreased between 1980 and 2010, from $13.57 to $12.71. Meanwhile, Latina women’s wages modestly increased from $10.24 to $11.31 over the same period.

Unlike African-American men, Latino men have increased their college completion rates, but Latina women have increased them even faster. In 1980, 7 percent of Latino men had a bachelor’s or advanced degree, compared to 5 percent of Latina women. In 2010, 12 percent of Latina women and 11 percent of Latino men had a college degree or higher.

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