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Native American women face a pay gap—and that’s part of a much bigger problem

Get the facts about the pay gap for Native American women.

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The pay gap

Native American women are paid less than white men—and white women

On average, Native American women in the U.S. are paid 50% less than white men and 32% less than white women.1

The pay gap by gender and race

The pay gap varies by tribal nation

If you break it down by tribal nation, some Native American women are paid even less.2

The pay gap by tribal nation

Did you know?

Native Americans represent less than 2% of the U.S. population and are organized into hundreds of tribal nations.3 The small size of this population and the different pay gaps of each tribal nation makes it harder to gather the information needed to understand and close the pay gap.

How it works

The pay gap starts early

From age 15, Native American girls are paid less than boys the same age—and the gap only grows from there.4

The pay gap by age5

The pay gap widens for educated Native American women

Although Native American women are going to college and holding jobs at higher rates than ever before6, education doesn’t eliminate the pay gap. In fact, the gap is largest for Native American women with bachelor’s and master’s degrees—at least 40% less than white men with similar educations on average.7

The pay gap by education level

Did you know?

A Native American woman with a bachelor’s degree makes $43,916—approximately the same amount a white man with just a high school diploma makes ($42,088).8

Even in the same job, the pay gap persists

On average, Native American women earn less than white men in the same role. For example, Native American women working as janitors and housekeepers earn 43% than white men doing the same job.8

The pay gap by occupation9

Why it matters

Imagine losing out on almost a million dollars

The pay gap is not about a single paycheck. Over the course of the average Native American woman’s career, the lost income adds up to almost a million dollars compared to white men.10

Average lost income over a lifetime due to the pay gap

Did you know?

Native Americans face disproportionate rates of poverty and unemployment. In April 2020, when a record high of 14.7% of Americans were unemployed, roughly 26% of Native Americans were unemployed.11

Families are on the front line

Almost three in five Native American mothers (58%) are breadwinners for their families—meaning their household depends on their paycheck.12 When Native American moms are paid less, they have less money for basic family necessities like rent, groceries, and school supplies. Over time, this impacts families’ ability to invest in savings, higher education, or property.

Share of mothers who are breadwinners

Did you know?

A 2017 study showed that more than one in four Native American children lived in poverty.13

The pay gap is just one example of the barriers that Native American women face

The United States’ history of genocide, oppression, and marginalization of Native American people has a lasting impact today: Native Americans face higher rates of poverty, unemployment, and health impacts than other groups.14 Women and girls are particularly disadvantaged, facing higher rates of violence and less legal protection from the state.15

Native American women deserve fair pay. It’s time to close the gap.

Footnotes

  1. Jasmine Tucker, “Native American Women Need Action That Closes the Wage Gap,” National Women’s Law Center (September 2021), https://nwlc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Native-Women-Equal-Pay-2021.pdf.
  2. Ibid.
  3. USA Facts, “Native Americans and the U.S. Census: How the count has changed” (November 21, 2019), https://usafacts.org/articles/native-americans-and-us-census-how-count-has-changed.
  4. Jasmine Tucker, “Equal Pay for Native Women,” National Women’s Law Center (September 2019), https://nwlc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Native-Women-Equal-Pay-2020.pdf.
  5. Calculations are based on 2013–2017 American Community Survey five-year sample using IPUMS-USA, available at https://usa.ipums.org/usa/. Figures are based on women’s and men’s median earnings for full-time, year-round workers. Figures are not adjusted for inflation. Earnings are in 2017 dollars. Workers without a high school diploma exclude those who have not completed at least ninth grade. Source: Tucker, “Equal Pay for Native Women.”
  6. Lauren Holter, “Native American Women Fight for a Better Future,” Bustle, August 13, 2015, https://www.bustle.com/articles/103209-native-american-women-are-fighting-for-a-better-future-by-getting-more-college-degrees-and-higher.
  7. Tucker, “Equal Pay for Native Women.”
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), “The Lifetime Wage Gap by State for Women Overall” (March 2021), https://nwlc.org/resource/the-lifetime-wage-gap-by-state-for-women-overall/; NWLC, “Lifetime Wage Gap Losses for White, Non-Hispanic Women State Rankings” (March 2021), https://nwlc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/White-Women-Lifetime-Losses-2021-v2.pdf; NWLC, “Lifetime Wage Gap Losses for Native American Women Overall State Rankings” (March 2021), https://nwlc.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Native-American-Women-Overall-Lifetime-Losses-2021-v2.pdf.
  11. , “Racial Wealth Snapshot: American Indians/Native Americans,” National Community Reinvestment Coalition (November 18, 2019), https://ncrc.org/racial-wealth-snapshot-american-indians-native-americans; Craig Benson, “Poverty: 2018 and 2019,” American Community Survey Brief ACSBR/20-04 (September 2020), https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2020/acs/acsbr20-04.pdf; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Official unemployment rate was 3.9 percent in December 2018,” January 9, 2019, https://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2019/official-unemployment-rate-was-3-point-9-percent-in-december-2018-u-6-was-7-point-6-percent.htm.
  12. Julie Anderson, “Breadwinner Mothers by Race/Ethnicity and State,” IWPR #Q079 (April 2020), accessed February 16, 2022, https://iwpr.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/QF-Breadwinner-Mothers-by-Race-FINAL-46.pdf. Note: Breadwinner mothers are defined as single mothers who head a household or partnered mothers who generate at least 40 percent of a household’s joint income.
  13. AnitaB.Org, “Native Women’s Equal Pay Day,” AnitaB.Org, September 23, 2019, https://anitab.org/blog/policy-advocacy/native-womens-equal-pay-day.
  14. Muhammad, Tec, and Ramirez, “Racial Wealth Snapshot: American Indians/Native Americans”; Indian Health Service, “Disparities” (October 2019), https://www.ihs.gov/newsroom/factsheets/disparities..
  15. Maya Salam, “Native American Women Are Facing a Crisis,” The New York Times, April 12, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/12/us/native-american-women-violence.html.