It takes American Indian women 21 months to earn what white men make in 12

Today, September 27th, marks Equal Pay Day for American Indian women, the day an American Indian woman will have had to have worked into 2018 to make in wages what a white man made in 2017 alone, nearly a full nine months later.

Equal Pay Day for American Indian women also comes nearly six full months later than National Equal Pay Day (April 10th) for women in general.

On average, women make just 80 cents for every dollar men make. This discrepancy is consistent across wage levels, levels of educational attainment, occupations, and sectors. This means that regardless of a woman’s credentials, she will likely be paid less than a man, whether she is a cashier or an executive. Unequal pay is a bigger issue for women of color.

The state of Montana is no exception. In fact, women in Montana, on average, make only 73 cents for every dollar men make. That discrepancy, which ranks Montana 48th worst in the nation, isn’t projected to close until 2084, putting Montana in tenth to last place to reach equal pay. And, unfortunately, the burden of unequal pay is far worse for American Indian women.

In Montana, American Indian women make just 67 cents for every dollar made by a white man. This means that American Indian women have to work more hours to earn the same amount of pay and that an American Indian woman’s career earnings won’t reach that of a 60-year-old white man until she is 80. Ultimately, this huge discrepancy in pay amounts to a lifetime loss of wages of over $600,000. This translates into a staggeringly high poverty rate among American Indian women. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, American Indian female-headed households in Montana experience poverty at a rate of 41%; that compares to a rate of 24% among white female-headed households, and a rate of 8% for Montana families overall.

Among other things, this means that women, and American Indian women in particular, have less money to support themselves and their families, are less upwardly mobile, are less able to save and invest for the future, are limited in their ability to participate in the economy, and have less money to spend on goods and services.

If the annual pay discrepancy were eliminated, a working woman in Montana would have enough money for:

  • More than 18 additional months of child care;
  • Two additional years of tuition and fees for a four-year public university, or the full cost of tuition and fees at a two-year community college;
  • Approximately 85 more weeks of food for her family (1.6 years’ worth);
  • 6 more months of mortgage and utilities payments; or
  • More than 16.5 additional months of rent.

Unequal pay is hurting families, communities, businesses, and the economy. American Indian women, and women in general, in Montana deserve better. Montana deserves better.

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