Getting by in today’s economy is hard work for nearly everyone; while the wealthiest 1 percent have seen their incomes recover from the recession of 2008, the rest of the country continues to struggle. Families from Oregon to Virginia know all too well that they can’t make ends meet on minimum wage work, even working full-time. For many women and people of color — and particularly for women of color who see the intersection of race and gender in their daily lives — providing for themselves and their families is an impossible task.

Throughout our nation’s history, women and people of color have been denied equity with white men, through laws and policies. Today, that lack of equity continues with a disproportionate share of women and people of color earning less than the living wage necessary to make ends meet. Without a living wage — a wage that provides enough to cover expenses and have some money left over for savings — working families must find ways to cut back, even on essentials like food or health care.

Women and people of color face an uphill battle in achieving pay equity. Without strong protections against discrimination, they are at a disadvantage, more likely to work in low-paying industries and be paid less within industries and occupations.

This concentration of women and people of color in low-wage work underscores the importance of addressing not only the shortage of living wage jobs, but also the racial and gender disparities in pay equity.

Equity in the Balance uses living wage thresholds calculated in the August 2014 Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series study to determine the percentages of full-time workers who earn a living wage, by gender, race and citizenship. These findings are calculated nationally and in 10 states and New York City, for five household types.

Key National Findings

Sixty-one percent of full-time workers in 2013 earned $15 per hour or greater, meaning that more than one-third of all full-time workers earn less than $15 per hour.

People of color disproportionately earn low wages.

Only 52 percent of workers of color earn $15 per hour or more, including 51 percent of black workers and 50 percent of Native American workers. This means that one in two workers of color does not earn enough for a single adult to make ends meet.

Only 42 percent of Latino workers earn $15 per hour or more, compared to nearly two-thirds of non-Latino workers.i

Women are more likely to earn low wages.

Only 57 percent of female workers earn $15 per hour or more, compared to nearly two-thirds of male workers, leaving more than 40 percent of female workers at risk of being unable to make ends meet.

Non-citizens are more likely to earn low wages.

Only 38 percent of non-citizen workers earn $15 per hour or more, compared to nearly two-thirds of workers who are citizens.

Key State Findings

In all household types for all 10 states and New York City:

Less than two-thirds of all full-time workers earn a living wage for a single adult, and less than one-third earn enough for a single adult with two children to make ends meet.

The percentage of workers earning a living wage for a single adult ranged from 64 percent in Washington to 46 percent in New York (not including NYC) and 44 percent in New York City.

The proportion of workers earning a living wage for a single adult with two children ranged from 31 percent in Washington to 19 percent in New York (not including NYC).

People of color were less likely than all workers to earn a living wage.

The difference between the percentage of workers of color and all workers earning a living wage for a single adult ranged from
7 percentage points in Virginia (50 percent of workers of color compared to 57 percent of all workers) to 21 percentage points in Montana (34 percent of workers of color compared to 55 percent of all workers).

The difference between the percentage of workers of color and all workers earning a living wage for a single adult with two children ranged from 3 percentage points in Maine (20 percent of workers of color compared to 23 percent of all workers) to 10 percent in Montana (14 percent of workers of color compared to 24 percent of all workers).

Women were less likely to earn a living wage than male workers.

The difference between the percentage of female workers and male workers earning a living wage for a single adult ranged from 2 percentage points in New York City (43 percent of female workers compared to 45 percent of male workers) to 13 percentage points in Idaho (43 percent of female workers compared to 56 percent of male workers).

The difference between the percentage of female workers and male workers earning a living wage for a single adult with two children ranged from 4 percentage points in New York City (18 percent of female workers compared to 22 percent of male workers) to 14 percentage points in Montana (16 percent of female workers compared to 30 percent of male workers).

Because women, people of color and immigrants are overrepresented in low-wage work, remedies must be twofold. First, lawmakers must address the fact that current minimum wages fall well short of providing enough to make ends meet, especially for tipped workers in states with a tip credit. Second, solutions must help women and people of color achieve pay equity, so that, even if the wage floor rises, these groups do not remain stuck at the bottom.

National Equity Report

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