Trailing behind white, Black, and Indigenous women, Latina women make just 57 cents for every dollar earned by white men. This gap is even wider for Latinas with college degrees. In addition to wages, Latinas face a benefit gap, often working jobs without benefits that promote wealth and stability, such as retirement accounts, paid time off, and health care.

These disparities are largely driven by occupational segregation and systemic racism (PDF), which crowd Latinas into low-paying jobs. Though not a monolithic group, Latinas face many intersecting barriers to pay equity in the workforce, including discrimination based on race, ethnicity, color, class, and gender. Structural factors, such as immigration status and language barriers, further impede Latinas’ access to higher-earning positions.

Amid persistent structural racism, policies that expand Latinas’ access to benefits can help them realize their full earning potential. By expanding access to health care, retirement plans, and child care, states can begin to break down these barriers, improve job quality, and enable Latina workers to thrive.

How states can support Latina workers 

Improving job quality and access to benefits can help Latinas achieve better earning outcomes and enable them to thrive. Here are three ways states can begin to close the benefits and pay gap for Latinas:

  1. Expand access to health care. In 2021, the American Rescue Plan expanded health care coverage for low-wage workers in many states by making plans more affordable. State-based marketplaces (SBMs) played a critical role in connecting uninsured people with these subsidized plans through creative advertising approaches and customer assistance. SBMs can help bridge linguistic barriers and promote awareness of resources among historically uninsured communities, like Latinas.
  2. Provide alternatives to private-sector retirement plansStates have begun implementing automatic individual retirement accounts, or auto-IRAs, to help close the racial retirement gap. By automatically enrolling workers, auto-IRAs aim to make saving for retirement more accessible and equitable for low-wage workers, who are disproportionately women and people of color and who often lack access to retirement benefits through their employer. These programs can also help workers at smaller companies, or in industries where employer-sponsored retirement plans are less common, save for retirement.
  3. Improve access to child careState tax policy can play a role in making affordable and quality child care more widely available through tax credits. Such measures can help support working families, allow women to save more money, and improve retention of Latina workers.

Read the full article about Latina workers by Jessica Perez at Urban Institute.