Separate is still unequal: How patterns of occupational segregation impact pay for black women

By Madison Matthews and Valerie Wilson

August 7, 2018, was Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, the day that marks how long into 2018 an African American woman would have to work in order to be paid the same wages her white male counterpart was paid last year. On average, in 2017, black women workers were paid only 66 cents on the dollar relative to non-Hispanic white men, even after controlling for education, years of experience, and geographic location. A previous blog post dispels many of the myths behind why this pay gap exists, including the idea that the gap would be closed by black women getting more education or choosing higher paying jobs. In fact, black women earn less than white men at every level of education and even when they work in the same occupation. But even if changing jobs were an effective way to close the pay gap black women face—and it isn’t—more than half would need to change jobs in order to achieve occupational equity.

Figure A plots the “Duncan Segregation Index” (DSI) for black women and white men, overall and by education, based on individual occupation data from the American Community Survey (ACS). This is a common measure of occupational segregation, which, in this case identifies what percentage of working black women (or white men) would need to change jobs in order for black women and white men to be fully integrated across occupations. Values of the DSI can range from 0 percent (complete integration) to 100 percent (complete segregation).

As shown in Figure A, there has been little progress on reducing occupational segregation between black women and white men since 2000. From 2000 to 2016 (latest data year available), the DSI only changed from 59 percent to 56 percent. This means that on average, 56 percent of black women (or white men) would need to change occupations in order to achieve occupational equity, or full integration of these two groups in the workforce.

Given that differences in education and skills influence the sorting of workers into specific jobs, we also present estimates of the DSI by education level in Figure A. These estimates reveal that there is less occupational segregation between black women and white men at higher levels of education. In 2016, the DSI for black women and white men with a high school diploma or less was 62 percent, while for those with 1–2 years of college the index decreases marginally to 60 percent. Although the DSI is 19 percentage points lower for those with advanced degrees than for those with a high school education or less, no matter how much education a black woman invests in, there is still an extremely high probability that she will not be employed in the same job as a similarly educated white man. Half of working black women (or white men) with a bachelor’s degree and 43 percent of those with an advanced degree would need to change jobs in order to fully integrate black women and white men in the workforce at those levels of education.

Moving toward a more integrated workforce would not just create social benefits of greater racial and gender diversity in the workplace, but also narrow wage gaps and create greater economic mobility for black women. When occupational segregation occurs, it typically imposes an economic penalty on black women because, on average, they are segregated into lower-paying jobs while white men are segregated into higher-paying jobs.

Based on estimates of median annual wages reported in the ACS, pay disparities are fairly consistent across different levels of education. In 2016, black women with a high school degree or less earned 57.5 percent of what their white male counterparts with the same level of education made. Similarly black women with advanced degrees earned 59.6 percent of what white men with advanced degrees made. We note that since these pay ratios are based on annual wages reported in the ACS, they differ from the hourly wage ratios available from the State of Working America Data Library and other EPI publications (which are based CPS-ORG data). Nonetheless, the pattern is the same. The gap remains large even as the two demographic groups become more educated, and as suggested by our estimates of the Duncan Segregation Index, more integrated in the workplace.

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Reposted from the EPI

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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