Last week, the N.C. Budget & Tax Center released new data on North Carolina's gender wage gap, throwing more cold water on former governor Pat McCrory and the General Assembly's much-touted "Carolina Comeback"—at least for women, and especially for women of color.
The report provided a statewide breakdown of North Carolina's gender wage gap by race and ethnicity, outlining pay data for black women, white women, Asian-American women, Native American women, and Latinas.
The results? Although women in the state already make less on average than their male counterparts (collecting 86 cents for every dollar that men make), women of color earn considerably less than that. Black women, for instance, net just 64 cents to the dollar. For Native American women, 58 cents. And Latinas in the state fare even more poorly: they earn just 48 cents for every dollar that men in the state earn.
Those averages stay fairly consistent at the county level, with a few notable exceptions. Durham County has the smallest overall wage gap: white women earn about 97 cents for every dollar that men make. But again, women of color don't fare as well. Black women earn about 73 cents for every man's dollar (still better than the state average), while Latinas earn just 41 cents to the dollar (less than the state average). Wake County, meanwhile, is below on all counts: 75 cents for white women, 57 cents for black women, and 40 cents for Latinas. And Alleghany County, in the northwest part of the state, has the most dismal statistic of all: there, according to the BTC, Latinas earn a mere 11 cents to the dollar.
These discrepancies add up. If the wage gap were eliminated, the BTC estimates, women would make about $6,000 a year more on average. That could mean a year's worth of groceries, five months of utilities payments, or almost eight months of rent. Those would not be minor gains for the more than half-million North Carolina families in which women are the primary breadwinners, or the one in four children in the state living in poverty.
The wage gap persists as female Tar Heels are weighed down by other economic and social burdens. North Carolina has been named the eleventh-most expensive state for child care in the country—so costly, in fact, that a year of child care for an infant in the state is costlier than a year of college tuition at a public university. And, to add insult to injury, North Carolina (like many states) doesn't have a law guaranteeing paid family and medical leave. It also doesn't require employers to provide accommodations for pregnant or nursing women.
These factors help make North Carolina one of the least gender-equal states in the country. A 2015 report by the Institute for Women's Policy Research gave North Carolina a D-plus in measures evaluating Tar Heel women's poverty and opportunity levels, health and well-being, and work and family culture.
And, the report added, if current trends continue, women in North Carolina won't be paid the same as men until 2064.