A new report finds a wage gap for Latina women in the 20 states with highest Latina employment. (Photo/Getty Images )

New figures show Latina women hit hard by wage gap

Texas and California might have the largest populations of employed Latinas – but Hispanic women in these states are paid only 59 cents and 69 cents, respectively, for every dollar paid to men, according to a new Census data analysis put together by the National Partnership for Women and Families, a progressive organization focusing on women’s issues .   In Florida and New Mexico, the wage gender gap is the smallest – but Latinas are still making only 68 cents for every dollar paid to a man.  In fact, in the 20 states with the largest number of Hispanic women working in full-time, year-round jobs, the wage gap is between 51 and 68 cents for every dollar men makes.

“These new data show that the wage gap is costing  women of color thousands of dollars in critical income each year that could be spent on food, rent, health care and on meeting other fundamental needs for their families,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families.

Just how much extra money could families have if Latina women’s pay were commensurate to men’s salaries?  The median salary for Hispanic women is $29,020 a year, and the median salary for all men is $48,202 dollars.   According to the National Partnership, closing approximately this $19,000 differential would allow Latinas to buy approximately three years’ worth of food, more than one year of mortgage and utility payments, nearly two years of rent, five years of a family’s health insurance premiums, or more than 5700 gallons of gas.

Many groups such as the National Partnership for Women and Families have long argued for congressional legislation to close the wage gap.  The Senate blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act twice, in 2010 and in 2012. Those legislators against it said enacting this legislation would be too much of a burden on employers, and they questioned its effectiveness.  “It’s pure election-year politics,” said Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio.  “This bill reads more to me like some sort of a welfare plan for trial lawyers,” Rubio added. Some economists and policy makers also argue that other factors, including a woman’s lifestyle choices, contributes to the wage gap.

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solís and the Obama administration support the Paycheck Fairness legislation.   “Women are the sole or co-wage earner in two-thirds of American households. And, for a growing number of families, equal pay for women is not just a matter of principle. It is a matter of survival,” said Solís when the legislation failed to pass initially in 2010.

Georgetown University labor economist Adriana Kugler, who recently ended her tenure as the first Latina chief economist to Labor Secretary Solís, has said “the average lifetime loss in salary for an American woman (due to the wage gap) is $400,000, but for a Latina, the number goes up to $800,000 – imagine what a Latina can do with that amount.”

A 2012 report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, however, found the wage gap is also present in high-paying jobs.  The study found American women CEOs and financial managers earned only 69 percent of what their male counterparts made,  around $650 less a week.

It is expected that Congress will introduce the Paycheck Fairness Bill again this year.

UPDATE: Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced her resignation today, saying it was time to “begin a new future.”   

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