September 16, 2019 | 62° F

New Jersey ranks dead last for wage gap between Latina women, white men

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 The New Jersey State House, which is located in Trenton, is the capitol building for the state. It continues to be used for legislative purposes, such as signing bills for policies such as the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. 

New Jersey’s wage gap between women and men ranks 25th nationwide and 51st for the wage gap between Latina women and white men. Elaine Zundl, research director for the Center for Women and Work (CWW), said the ranking comes from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC).

“Essentially, the ones with the lowest pay gap are ranked highest. So if you have the lowest pay gap in the group, you are ranked first,” Zundl said.

New Jersey pays women $0.80 overall to every dollar paid to a man, according to the ranking. Black women roughly make $0.57 to every dollar paid to white men, and Latina women roughly make $0.42 for every dollar paid to white men.

The state’s figures are lower than the national level's, with Black women typically receiving $0.61 and Latina women receiving $0.53. Zundl said comparatively, New York is higher-paying for Latina women at $0.56 and Pennsylvania is even higher at $0.57.

There is no clear explanation for why New Jersey has a bigger gap than the neighboring states for Latina women. But the pay difference between white women, Black women and Latina women is explainable.

“Latina women and Black women tend to work in industries that are lower-paying,” Zundl said. “So that’s why the gap is higher for them.”

In a recent release of information by the CWW, Latina women in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania traditionally pay Latina women the least.

Another struggle for women workers is the mommy tax, which is “where women who have children or have a lot of caregiving requirements, or maybe not even children but aging parents or elderly grandparents taking care of their grandchildren, end up needing more flexibility in their work,” Zundl said.

This pushes women toward jobs that give them that flexibility, and these jobs tend to pay less.

There have been some efforts at the national level to pass some paid leave or family leave, but the only leave people can take from the federal government is the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, which is unpaid, Zundl said.

New Jersey’s policy, Family Leave Insurance, allows people to take time off to care for someone and pays the worker for their time. It also allows for the worker to keep their earnings more stable, even if the work flexibility is needed, Zundl said.

Paying for childcare is another issue for women, she said.

“Childcare is so expensive that most of the time women will take time out of the work force or take a part-time job because they simply can’t find enough affordable childcare to cover all the hours that they need,” Zundl said.

This childcare cost is a burden on everyone, not just women, she said.

New Jersey’s Diane B. Allen Equal Pay Act mandates that in a job, men and women need to be paid equally according to their background and experience at the job.

Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) signed the act on April 24, 2018. It requires employers to submit the payment and hours each employee completes and gives employees who may be discriminated against the right to seek legal advice.

“It’s not just about gender, it’s about almost every equal equity category. It’s about ethnicity, race, religion and sexual orientation,” Zundl said.

There has to be no reason why one gender or ethnic group in the firm is being paid a more disparate number than the other in this act, she said.

Yet, the Diane B. Allen Act does not address the pay gap entirely, only the pay gap at the job level. It additionally does not help with the mommy tax or with childcare costs, she said.

Mia Boccher

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