Spotlight on Women of Color
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Women’s earnings differ considerably by race and ethnicity. Across the largest racial and ethnic groups in the United States, Asian/Pacific Islander women have the highest median annual earnings at $46,000, followed by white women ($40,000). Native American and Hispanic women have the lowest earnings at $31,000 and $28,000, respectively.
While Asian/Pacific Islander women overall have the highest earnings and Hispanic and Native American women have the lowest earnings, significant differences exist within these groups. Among Asian/Pacific Islander women, Indian women have the highest median annual earnings at $60,879—more than twice the earnings of the lowest earning group, the Hmong ($30,000), and approximately twice the earnings of the second lowest group, the Bangladeshi ($30,439). Among Hispanic women, women of Argentinian and Spanish descent have the highest earnings at $40,804 and $40,586, respectively, while women of Honduran and Guatemalan descent have the lowest earnings at $22,784 and $23,337. Among Native American women, median annual earnings are highest among the Chickasaw ($42,000), and lowest among the Sioux ($28,410) and Apache ($28,500; Table B2.3). These earnings differences likely stem, in part, from differences in education levels; women from the higher-earning racial and ethnic groups are more likely to hold a college degree (IWPR 2015).
In all the racial and ethnic groups shown in Figure 2.3 and all but two of the detailed groups shown in Table B2.3—the Pueblo and “other” Central Americans—women earn less than men. Among the groups in Figure 2.3, the differences are smallest for blacks and Hispanics, due to the comparatively low earnings of black and Hispanic men, which are considerably less than the earnings of men overall.
Another way of examining gender earnings differences is to compare earnings for different groups of women with the largest group in the labor force, white men. Hispanic women face the largest earnings gap, with median annual earnings that are slightly more than half those of white men (53.8 percent). Asian/Pacific Islander women face the smallest gap, but still earn only 88.5 percent of white men’s earnings.
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Health insurance coverage rates vary by race and ethnicity. Among the largest racial and ethnic groups, white (86.8 percent) and Asian/Pacific Islander (82.8 percent) women had the highest rates of coverage in 2013. Hispanic and Native American women had the lowest rates at 64.0 and 67.7 percent, respectively (Figure 4.1). For all racial and ethnic groups shown below, women had higher coverage rates than men.
The educational progress women have made has not been distributed equally across racial and ethnic groups. As Figure 4.3 shows, Asian/Pacific Islander women are the most likely to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher (48.4 percent), followed by women who identify with another race or two or more races (32.6 percent) and white women (32.5 percent). Native American and Hispanic women are the least likely to hold at least a bachelor’s degree (15.5 percent and 15.3 percent, respectively). One in three Hispanic women (33.9 percent) has less than a high school diploma; the proportion of Hispanic women with this level of education is approximately twice as large as the proportion of Native American women, the group with the second largest share of women holding the lowest level of education. White women are the least likely to have less than a high school diploma.
The number and share of women-owned firms that are owned by women of color has increased dramatically in recent years. In 1997, women of color—who constitute approximately 35 percent of the female population aged 18 and older (IWPR 2015a)—owned 929,445 businesses in the United States, representing 17 percent of all women-owned firms. By 2014, this number had grown to an estimated 2,934,500, or 32 percent of women-owned firms (American Express Open 2014). Firms owned by black or African American women have experienced the most rapid growth; between 1997 and 2014, African American women-owned firms are estimated to have grown by 296 percent and their revenues to have increased by 265 percent, surpassing the growth among all women-owned firms (which are estimated to have increased in number by 68 percent and in revenues by 72 percent during the same time period). Asian, Hispanic or Latina, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women-owned firms have also experienced more rapid growth in the number of firms and revenues than all women-owned firms. Native American women-owned firms, however, experienced greater growth in number of firms than all women-owned firms, but did not experience an increase in revenues at a pace greater than that of than all women-owned firms between 1997 and 2014 (American Express Open 2014). Among firms owned by non-minority women, growth in both the number of firms (37 percent) and revenues (58 percent) was slower than among all women-owned businesses.
Poverty rates vary considerably among adult women from the largest racial and ethnic groups. Native American women have the highest poverty rate at 28.1 percent, followed by black (25.7 percent) and Hispanic (24.0 percent) women. The poverty rate for white women is the lowest among the groups shown in Figure 4.4 and is less than half the rate for Native American, black, and Hispanic women (11.7 percent). For each of the largest racial and ethnic groups, women’s poverty rate is higher than men’s; the difference is greatest between Hispanic women and men (Figure 4.4).
Native American Women and Emergency Contraception
Research indicates that for many Native American women, emergency contraception may be particularly difficult to access. This lack of access represents a serious concern for indigenous communities, especially given that Native American women experience higher levels of sexual assault than women of other races and ethnicities (Breiding et al. 2014; Kingfisher, Asetoyer, and Provost 2012). One study that surveyed 40 Indian Health Service (IHS) pharmacies found that only 10 percent had Plan B available over the counter; at 37.5 percent of the pharmacies surveyed, an alternative form of emergency contraception was offered, and the rest had no emergency contraception at all (Gattozzi 2008; Asetoyer, Luluquisen, and Millis 2009). Many Native American women who live on reservations face significant barriers to accessing emergency contraception through a commercial pharmacy outside of their reservation (Kingfisher, Asetoyer, and Provost 2012), including geographic constraints (having to travel a great distance to find a pharmacy that provides emergency contraception) and financial obstacles. Expanding access to emergency contraception for Native American women and others who may lack access is integral to improving women’s overall well-being and securing their reproductive rights.