According to the recent U.S. Census Bureau data, there are currently 38 million people living in poverty— and 21 million are women. And among them, next to Indian/Non-Hispanic women, Black women have the second highest rates of poverty of the demographic.
Black women represent over 22 percent of women in poverty but only account for 12 percent of all women in the U.S. population.
Where the new data on poverty cases is informative for many other counterparts, it is a death sentence specifically where Black women are concerned. Because while there are many contributing factors such as rising costs, financial burden from medical and/or childcare expenses, debt, etc., that lead to such cases, there are also underlying, discriminatory practices that uniquely impact the economic state of Black women.
Historically, Black women have always faced double barriers based on race and gender. More specifically, such barriers have created inequities and disparities in our income and wealth. As a result, the higher levels of poverty we experience disproportionately often leave us at a costly, economic disadvantage in several areas.
For Black families, “ownership is power.” Black women have a higher share (52 percent) of the head of household in Black families. Statistics around Black female homeownership found:
- Black female applicants are denied mortgages at an 84 percent higher rate than their counterparts.
- The Black female homeownership rate only recently made up 35.4 percent of all homeowners.
- Black women are 256 percent more likely to receive a subprime mortgage than their white counterparts with the same credit score and economic position.
The Wage Gap:
The wage gap continues to highlight a persistent inequity for Black women in America. On average, Black women are paid 58 cents a dollar less than our counterparts. Recent reports show more disturbing, discriminatory data contributing to poverty rates such as:
- The pay gap for Black women begins as early as 16. Black girls are paid less than our counterparts the same age—the gap only widens from there.
- The wage gap is even bigger for educated Black women, who earn 36 percent less than white men and women with the same educational credentials.
- Black women are also paid less than their white counterparts in the same position. Down to the lower level service jobs, Black women are paid 13 percent less and 32 percent less in managerial positions.
- Black women who work full-time for 40 years will lose nearly 1 million in wages compared to white men.
Black women are uniquely burdened by loan debt crises more than any other demographic. Not only does the racial wealth gap present inequity in the economy for Black women, but it also leaves us with fewer resources to manage finances and more specifically, pay back loans. Some racial and gender disparities in our debt demonstrate:
- Black women carry higher student debt— owing 22 percent more in student loan debt than our white female counterparts.
- Black women who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher and work full-time and year-round had median earnings of $60,681 in 2020, compared to $91,805 for White men, $75,329 for Black men, and $67,324 for White women.
- Black women owe at least 13 percent more than what they borrowed (no less than 10 years ago) than their white counterparts who owe nearly the same amount and most likely have to resort to forbearance or deferment to postpone payments, — while their white counterparts show to have paid off at least 44 percent of their debt by then.
Black women sit front and center at the intersection of race and gender economic inequality. America cannot afford to call itself the land of the fair and free until it begins to offer equitable resources to those negatively impacted. Poverty is an extreme state of inequality that can have diverse social, political, and economic effects.
And more often than not, Black women experience them all interchangeably.
In order to improve the economic state of Black women, America has to reckon with and address the ways we disproportionately fall into poverty.
This National Poverty Awareness Month, join us by raising awareness around Black women living in poverty and supporting the following solutions:
- Creating initiatives and resources such as more affordable housing so Black women can increase their chances of building generational wealth through homeownership.
- Enforcing equal pay and hiring more Black women in leadership roles at the same pay as our counterparts in the same positions.
- Providing Black women with more access to business opportunities and capital in order to start, leverage, and maintain businesses and professional networking relationships.
- Canceling loan debt to help improve the racial and gender wealth gap and medical financial crises Black women face.
The economic experiences of Black women provide us with a clear eye view of how in moments of financial crises such as poverty, we who have the least are often hurt the most.
Looking to improve the economic state of the Black woman, — ensuring that we support the initiatives to meet the needs of the financially marginalized, will ensure the benefit of all.
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