With Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz, on hand in Washington D.C., the Center for American Progress (CAP) released a study on August 8, 2012, that “takes a look into Latinos’ successes and challenges as one of the fastest-growing populations in the country.”
That report comes on the heals of CAP's Progress 2050 report released July 17, 2012, entitled, “The State of Women of Color in the United States.”
As a key growing demographic in the U.S., women of color represent approximately 36 percent of the female population and about 18 percent of the U.S. population based on Census data. The “State of Women of Color in the United States,” examines four key areas, workplace wage gap, health, educational attainment, and political leadership. With Latinos as one of the fastest-growing populations in the country, the August 8 brief, “The State of Latinos in the United States,” hones in on that specific community and adds a fifth key area of concern: veterans’ affairs.
Both reports look at the “successes and challenges” of women while also painting a picture of “significant disparities in healthcare, education, and economic indicators.”
According to CAP’s “State of Women of Color” report, there are incredible strides in educational attainment and in the workplace, but earnings and net wealth still pale in comparison to white women. Women of color also lag in political leadership positions even though their role in shaping the country’s economic and political climate is becoming increasingly significant. Despite their growing numbers, women of color today remain largely underrepresented in the national debate on key issues.
The “wage gap” and employment barriers remain the most blatant of the disparities, particularly for Latina women. While a significant pay gap between men and women remains, there is a greater disparity among women of color; black women and Latina women receive 70 cents and 61 cents, respectively, compared to the average 77 cents on the dollar that the average white male earns.
And while women of color comprise 33 percent of the female workforce, they are twice as likely to have lower-wage sector jobs, such as the service industry, a common occupation for black women at 27 percent and Latina women at 30 percent, with black women receiving low median weekly earnings – Latina women receiving the least. CAP also found only 5.6 percent of black women and 4.8 percent of Latina women worked in management positions. Interestingly, 4 in 10 working Hispanic wives were the family breadwinners in 2010 (nearly double the rate from 1975,) while more than half of black wives were the breadwinners.
One area of significant progress is as entrepreneurs with 1.9 million businesses currently majority owned by women of color, showing $165 billion in annual revenue. Latina-owned businesses are the fastest growing, representing 1-in-10 of all women-owned businesses and starting-up at six times the national average, according to the “State of Latinos in the United States” report.
The disparities in healthcare for Women of color reflect in the disproportionately higher rates of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, hypertension, and certain forms of cancer.
“While women of color represent 36.3 percent of the U.S. female population, they account for 53.2 percent of uninsured women, with Hispanics having the highest uninsured rates across all other racial and ethnic groups,” according to the “State of Women of Color in the United States” report. In particular, “Disparities in reproductive health caused Latina women to experience unintended pregnancies at double the rate of white women, and African American women experience unintended pregnancies at three times the rate.”
“Latinas are twice as likely to die from pregnancy-associated complications as their white counterparts,” and “20 percent more likely to die from breast cancer,” according to the “State of Latinos in the United States” report.
The biggest advances are in education, as women among most ethnic groups receive degrees at higher rates than men, and the number of master’s degrees earned by women of color doubled from 1997 to 2007, while the number of doctoral degrees increased by 63 percent over the same time-period, according to CAP. Though women of color have made significant strides in completing college, they still experience financial barriers that hinder their full potential, particularly among Latinos who continue to have the lowest educational attainment levels.
Both CAP reports stress that, despite substantial advances, women of color are “greatly underrepresented in positions of power in government.” According to CAP, of the 90 women serving in the current 112th U.S. Congress, women of color comprise only 27 percent, and completely absent in the Senate. Of those serving in the House, more than half (13) are African American women, less than one-third (7) are Latinas, and only two are Asian Pacific Islanders. No Native American woman has ever served in Congress. On the state level, women of color comprise 14.9 percent of female state elective executives; 20.1 percent of the female state legislators (4.8 percent of the total state legislators). Among the nation’s 100 largest cities, only two women of color serve as mayors.