New Report: Number of Latinas Getting Degrees Continues to Rise, But Their Wages Aren’t

Graphic design illustrating the growing educational achievements of Latinas juxtaposed with the persistent wage gap they face
Luz Media

Every year on June 6, the U.S. celebrates Higher Education Day, a day dedicated to helping students prepare for their transition into higher education. For many, it’s also a day to celebrate the fact that they even had the opportunity to reach higher education in the first place. Not all bright and education-hungry people have that privilege; Latinos chief among them.

For Latinas, higher education is a particular source of pride because their numbers have been steadily growing. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, the number of Latinas earning advanced degrees increased by 291% between 2000 and 2021. These findings were based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

A more recent analysis from the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute revealed that the percentage of Latinas with a bachelor’s degree or higher almost quadrupled between 2000 and 2021, going from 5.4% to 20%. This analysis also found that Latinas are more likely to have a bachelor’s degree or higher than Latinos, and this is consistent in all age groups.

The analysis also showed that Latinas are more likely than Latinos to hold a bachelor’s degree, regardless of age group, country of origin, veteran status, or English proficiency. Younger generations of Latinas are also more likely to pursue higher education than older generations.

Even though the number of Latinas in higher education is rising, their wages are not.

The wage gap persists and having a bachelor’s degree or higher doesn’t guarantee that Latinas obtain fair wages. According to the same analysis by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Institute, census data shows that Latinas with bachelor’s degrees or higher are making an average of $26 per hour. Latinas make $14 less per hour than white men with a similar education and $6 less per hour than Latinos with a similar education.

The average Latina loses over a million dollars in income throughout her career due to the wage gap. So it’s not just about individual paychecks, it’s about the long-term systemic impact of this inequality. The wage gap remains a serious economic issue for Latinas. Even as their presence in higher education and degree attainment continues to rise, they’re still a long way from equal pay.

Why Does the Wage Gap Persist Even Through Degree Attainment? 

The reasons are usually systemic and individual racism and sexism in the workplace. Bias against Latinas is found at all levels of the professional ladder, where they’re stereotyped as less competent or intelligent than white men or women both because of their gender and their race. At a UCLA Latina Equal Pay Day conference in 2023, Jessica Ramey Stender, Policy Director, and Deputy Legal Director at Equal Rights Advocates, stated, “Latinas face double discrimination based on both gender and race, so a lot of the issues that we see that rise and cause the wage gap are around discrimination, a lack of access to adequate supports in the workplace,” reported ABC7.

It’s more essential than ever for Latinas to advocate for themselves in the workplace, but more systemic change needs to happen before we see any results. Even if Latinas have the credentials and achievements to back up their assertive requests for promotions and raises, they’re still 29% less likely to get them than white men.

This is the broken rung in the ladder that only seems to exist for women, specifically women of color, and it will take more than individual self-advocacy. It will require teamwork and a push to change the status quo.

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