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Latinas and African American Women at Work

Latinas and African American Women at Work: Race, Gender, and Economic Inequality

Irene Browne Editor
Copyright Date: 1999
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 452
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    Latinas and African American Women at Work
    Book Description:

    One ofChoicemagazine's Outstanding Academic Books of 1999

    Accepted wisdom about the opportunities available to African American and Latina women in the U.S. labor market has changed dramatically. Although the 1970s saw these women earning almost as much as their white counterparts, in the 1980s their relative wages began falling behind, and the job prospects plummeted for those with little education and low skills. At the same time, African American women more often found themselves the sole support of their families. While much social science research has centered on the problems facing black male workers,Latinas and African American Women at Workoffers a comprehensive investigation into the eroding progress of these women in the U.S. labor market.

    The prominent sociologists and economists featured in this volume describe how race and gender intersect to especially disadvantage black and Latina women. Their inquiries encompass three decades of change for women at all levels of the workforce, from those who spend time on the welfare rolls to middle class professionals. Among the many possible sources of increased disadvantage, they particularly examine the changing demands for skills, increasing numbers of immigrants in the job market, the precariousness of balancing work and childcare responsibilities, and employer discrimination. While racial inequity in hiring often results from educational differences between white and minority women, this cannot explain the discrimination faced by women with higher skills. Minority women therefore face a two-tiered hurdle based on race and gender. Although the picture for young African American women has grown bleaker overall, for Latina women, the story is more complex, with a range of economic outcomes among Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, and Central and South Americans.

    Latinas and African American Women at Workreveals differences in how professional African American and white women view their position in the workforce, with black women perceiving more discrimination, for both race and gender, than whites. The volume concludes with essays that synthesize the evidence about racial and gender-based obstacles in the labor market.

    Given the current heated controversy over female and minority employment, as well as the recent sweeping changes to the national welfare system, the need for empirical data to inform the public debate about disadvantaged women is greater than ever before. The important findings inLatinas and African American Women at Worksubstantially advance our understanding of social inequality and the pervasive role of race, ethnicity and gender in the economic well-being of American women.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-094-3
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction Latinas and African American Women in the U.S. Labor Market
    (pp. 1-32)
    Irene Browne

    More than thirty years after the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, economic inequality in the United States continues to be inextricably linked to both race and gender. The groups facing the greatest risk of poverty and lowest wages are Latinas and African American women.¹ And their plight appears to be getting worse. Women of color are increasingly responsible for supporting their families at a time when all individuals at the bottom of the income distribution are slipping further behind those at the top (Danziger and Gottschalk 1993; Levy and Murnane 1992). The economic prospects for Latinas...


    • Chapter 1 The Economic Progress of African American Women
      (pp. 35-60)
      Mary Corcoran

      Researchers have extensively documented, theorized about, and studied the decline in African American men’s earnings and employment in the 1970s and 1980s (see Moss and Tilly 1991; Levy and Murnane 1992; and Holzer 1993 for reviews of this prolific literature). But surprisingly little published theoretical or empirical research has focused directly on African American women’s economic outcomes, seriously limiting both the poverty and the economic inequality literatures. African American women have historically earned much less than white men, and the incidence of poverty in households headed by African American women is high.

      In the poverty literature, for example, many discussions...

    • Chapter 2 Losing Ground: The Erosion of the Relative Earnings of African American Women During the 1980s
      (pp. 61-104)
      John Bound and Laura Dresser

      A reasonably large literature examines the erosion of the relative wages of African American men and the increasing relative wages of white women during the 1980s, but the position of African American women in the labor market has received less attention. The historical importance of the contributions of African American women to family income and the increasing proportion of African American families that are headed by single women are just two reasons to develop a more detailed understanding of the relative position of African American women and the reason for its erosion (Simms and Malveaux 1986). In this chapter we...

    • Chapter 3 The Economic Progress of Mexican and Puerto Rican Women
      (pp. 105-138)
      Mary Corcoran, Colleen M. Heflin and Belinda L. Reyes

      In 1990, one in four Latinos and Latinas lived below the poverty line, with a significant portion living in extreme poverty (Enchautegi 1995). This fact implies a set of important policy issues, as Latinos and Latinas are the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the United States. Their demographic growth rate from 1980 to 1990 was nearly ten times that of non-Hispanic whites and more than five times that of African Americans (Morales and Bonilla 1993). Predictions are that Latinos and Latinas will be 15.5 percent of the U.S. population by 2020 (Edmonton and Passel 1992). They are geographically concentrated...

    • Chapter 4 Gender, Race, Ethnicity, and Wages
      (pp. 139-182)
      Paula England, Karen Christopher and Lori L. Reid

      In the United States, discussions of race are often about the relative privilege of white men vis-à-vis African American men, and discussions of gender often tell the story of relations between white men and women. Thus knowledge about the situation of women of color is limited, and race is often seen as strictly a black-white issue, an anachronistic formulation at a time when Latinos and Latinas will soon outnumber African Americans. This chapter attends to racial or ethnic group and gender simultaneously and looks at how they affect the pay of two groups of women of color in the U.S.:...

    • Chapter 5 Occupational Segregation by Race and Ethnicity Among Women Workers
      (pp. 183-204)
      Barbara F. Reskin

      Segregation is a social mechanism that preserves inequality across groups (van den Berghe 1960; Reskin 1988; Massey and Denton 1993). Occupational segregation by sex, for example, contributes to the pay gap between the sexes and to sex-based differences in job prestige, promotion opportunities, working conditions, and other work rewards (England 1992; Reskin 1994). There is every reason to suspect that occupational segregation based on race and ethnicity plays a similar role in generating racial and ethnic disparities in workplace rewards. However, in contrast to occupational segregation by sex, little is known about occupational segregation based on race and ethnicity. Without...


    • Chapter 6 Generational Paths into and out of Work: Personal Narratives of Puerto Rican Women in New York
      (pp. 207-243)
      Aixa N. Cintrón-Vélez

      Since the end of World War II and until recently, the economic fortunes of Puerto Ricans in the United States have been closely tied to the performance of the New York economy. Even before the world recession and oil price shocks of the early 1970s, this northern industrial city heralded the changes that were to alter urban economies in the United States (Bailey and Waldinger 1991). The movement away from primary-sector jobs in the goods-producing industries and the erosion of employment and earning opportunities for the less skilled resulted in economic hardship and increased inequality, particularly among those who were...

    • Chapter 7 Mexican-Origin Women in Southwestern Labor Markets
      (pp. 244-269)
      Susan González Baker

      Few groups display greater social and demographic diversity than Mexican-origin women in the southwestern United States. While the identifier “Mexican-origin” signifies a shared ancestry, it describes individuals with life experiences as varied as those of an undocumented Mexican-born immigrant working as a domestic laborer in a private household and a U.S.-born, Mexican-origin Ph.D. holder working in a university. “Mexican-origin” includes people whose connection to Mexico is profound and those who have never been there. It includes significant numbers who speak only Spanish and significant numbers who speak not a word of that language. Given this complexity, questions about Mexican-origin women...

    • Chapter 8 Getting Off and Staying Off: Racial Differences in the Work Route off Welfare
      (pp. 270-301)
      Kathryn Edin and Kathleen Mullan Harris

      The welfare reform bill of 1996 was the culmination of several decades of growing social concern over non-work, low marriage rates, and welfare dependency among the poor. During the 1980s, the growing research and rhetoric about a phenomenon labeled the “underclass” heightened this concern. Journalists, politicians, and some scholars claimed that a new class of people was emerging in America’s inner cities, a group entirely outside the economic class structure. Members of this new class were allegedly isolated from the world of work and trapped in a cycle of welfare dependency (Auletta 1982; Kaus 1986; Murray 1984; Wilson 1987). Some...

    • Chapter 9 Stereotypes and Realities: Images of Black Women in the Labor Market
      (pp. 302-326)
      Irene Browne and Ivy Kennelly

      As the chapters in this volume illustrate, opportunities for success in the U.S. labor market remain linked to gender and race, and African American women continue to be among the most severely disadvantaged. Black women still earn lower wages than black men, white women, and white men (see chapter 4). Black women also face restricted opportunities for upward mobility; when they secure positions of authority in the workplace, they most often hold positions in which they supervise only other black women (Browne, Tigges, and Press forthcoming).

      Why do black women continue to remain at the bottom of the wage and...

    • Chapter 10 Perceptions of Workplace Discrimination Among Black and White Professional-Managerial Women
      (pp. 327-354)
      Elizabeth Higginbotham and Lynn Weber

      Despite recent gains, both African American and white women professionals and managers still earn far less than white men do and remain segregated in segments of the workforce with limited advancement opportunities and “glass ceilings” (see Federal Glass Ceiling Commission 1995; McGuire and Reskin 1993). And black women professionals and managers earn less than white women (Higginbotham 1987, 1994; Reskin and Roos 1990; Sokoloff 1992; Woody 1992). Yet knowledge of how black and white women experience and understand systems of racial and gender-based inequality is quite unsystematic and is based largely on anecdotal evidence and qualitative studies of small, racially...


    • Chapter 11 Black Women and the New World Order: Toward a Fit in the Economic Marketplace
      (pp. 357-379)
      Delores P. Aldridge

      African American women and men will face both challenges and opportunities at the dawn of the twenty-first century, which will be characterized by highly developed technology in the workplace. Many jobs traditionally held by women, particularly black and poor women, will be obsolete. And those women most in need will be the poorly educated without the skills necessary for a fit, or full engagement, within a highly technological world (Aldridge 1989, 1991, 1995).

      Kweli (1983) observed that:

      The struggle for equity throughout the world is becoming increasingly technological in nature. No less than the survival, growth, and development of minority...

    • Chapter 12 Now You See ’Em, Now You Don’t: Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in Labor Market Research
      (pp. 380-407)
      Barbara F. Reskin and Camille Z. Charles

      Labor market research has been one of the most fruitful approaches to understanding social inequality in contemporary American society. This is hardly surprising, given the fundamental role that labor market processes play in shaping social and economic inequality. Since paid employment is the primary way that most economic and many social resources are distributed to adults in the United States, access to paid employment influences a wide array of outcomes, including the acquisition of types of human capital distributed in the workplace, earnings, social status, and economic security for the postemployment years. Because they allocate workers to jobs, labor markets...

    • Chapter 13 Latinas and African American Women in the Labor Market: Implications for Policy
      (pp. 408-432)
      Joya Misra

      Almost 30 percent of all African Americans and Latinos and Latinas live in poverty, whereas only 10 percent of whites do. This number includes almost half of all African American children and more than one-third of Latino and Latina children. The poverty rates calculated for children living in households headed by women are even more dramatic. Two-thirds of African American and Latino and Latina children in families headed by single mothers live in poverty (compared with 20 percent of white children in such families) (Danziger and Weinberg 1994, 35, 37).

      To make sense of these disturbing figures, scholars have explored...

  8. Index
    (pp. 433-441)