Business & Economy

Study finds large pay gap for Native American women

Set of black opened envelope and cash dollars
Advocates for pay transparency say sharing how much money you make could help close the wage gap.
Karolina Grabowska for Pexels

Native American women have one of the largest pay disparities of any group in the U.S.

An analysis by the National Partnership for Women and Families found Native American women earn just 55 cents for every dollar earned by white men.

Economist Anwesha Majumder calculated if the pay gap were eliminated for a year, a Native woman could pay 28 months of childcare or 14 months of average mortgage and utility payments.

“These are real impacts of what the wage gap means to real people to support themselves and their families and be able to make their lives what they want them to be,” said Majumder.

The report found Native women are overrepresented in health care and education, jobs that are often poorly compensated.

“And I think that’s actually a wonderful thing that Native women are so motivated to help and be in community,” Majumder said. “And it leads to a larger question of ‘why are those positions not things that we value in a monetary way?’”

It has long been difficult to do such a data analysis because the government collects little data on Native Americans, said Majumder.

The nonprofit used data from a variety of sources, including the American Community Survey, which Majumder pointed out collects data from about 30 of the 574 federally recognized tribes.

“So that in and of itself speaks to the lack of investment in data infrastructure for Native peoples and understanding their experiences,” she said. “We can’t change what we don’t measure.”

The pay gap has broad impacts across communities said Gina Jackson, the co-CEO of Return to the Heart Foundation, a nonprofit focused on supporting native women and girls and a partner in this research.

“It relates to so many other things as well, including child welfare, not being able to have those supportive services and the things that they need and being one paycheck away from disaster,” said Jackson.

The report points to factors such as gender and racial discrimination, workplace harassment and job segregation as contributing to the pay gap for Native women.

It also offers suggestions for policy changes to help reduce the pay disparity.

“If we don’t grapple with the deep reasons of inequality that we have, then we’re just putting band aids on,” said Jackson. “We need those band aids, some of those band aids are saving lives. But I would propose that we just need to go deeper.”

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