According to a new report from financial services firm S&P Global, the racist barriers to economic mobility that have limited Black women’s educational and vocational achievements have also depressed the U.S. economy by approximately $507 billion over the past six decades. That’s right—being anti-Black is bad for the economy!
If Black women’s educational attainment had grown at the same rate as that of white women between 1960 and 2019, that alone would have stimulated the U.S. economy by $107 billion. If Black women had been in jobs that better matched their educational abilities and skills during that 60 year period, that amount would have increased by another $400 billion.
The S&P Global report concluded that decades of income inequality for Black women have slowed the overall household income growth of Black families. Well, duh. It’s also made it more difficult for Black women to sustain employment and wages during economic downturns—including the recession at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. In May of 2020, mere months after the pandemic began, 16% of Black women were unemployed. A year later in May 2021, the unemployment rate for Black women had fallen to 8.2%—but that’s still nearly twice as high as the unemployment rate for white women, which was just 4.8%. In fact, white women’s current unemployment rate while the pandemic is still ongoing is now lower than Black women’s pre-pandemic unemployment rate.
“Looking at the monthly unemployment rate comparing it to white women, you don’t have to look at a recession. Black women’s unemployment rate has been above White women every month going back to 1972,” said Beth Ann Bovino, the lead author of the S&P Global report. “Our concern is that Black women were already far behind — could they be even further behind after COVID-19?”
Unfortunately, the ever-delightful combination of institutionalized racism and sexism has created countless barriers to Black women’s ability to accumulate wealth and achieve financial stability. Although Black women have been attending college at increasing rates in recent years, they are more likely to attend for-profit schools, which limits their career opportunities after graduation and increases their student debt. Despite participating in the labor force at higher rates than white women, Black women are often stuck in lower-earning jobs—nearly one-third of Black women in the U.S. are employed in the service industry, and Black women also make up large percentages of the caregiving, health aide, and nursing assistance workforces.
In 2019, the earnings gap between Black women and white women was $12,700.