Working Hard For The Money

Black women with bachelor’s degrees are edging out white and Hispanic women with the same education level in the earnings race. Economists say this may be a result of black women clocking more hours or juggling more than one job.

According to U.S. Census Bureau findings in 2003, black women with college degrees earned $41,066, compared with degreed white and Hispanic women, who earned $37,761 and $37,550, respectively. Asian women, who took home $43,656 a year, earned the most.

Margaret Simms, a member of the BLACK ENTERPRISE Board of Economists and vice president of Governance and Economic Affairs at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, suggests that degreed black women are earning higher incomes because a larger percentage of them work full time, in contrast to their white and Hispanic counterparts.

Cecilia A. Conrad, a professor of economics at Pomona College in Claremont, California, agrees. “Historically, black women, especially married black women, have had higher rates of labor force participation,” she says.

Conrad, also a member of BE’s Board of Economists, notes that because black men traditionally make less than their white or Asian counterparts, in a family setting, black women work more hours out of necessity. “The incomes of black men are more volatile, and so family security may require that both husband and wife work full time,” Conrad explains.

Case in point, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the definition of workforce participation is any person working or actively seeking employment. Among blacks, 82.9% of women and men with bachelor’s degrees are participating in the workforce, compared with 77.5% of whites, 76% of Asians, and 82.1% of Hispanics.