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Women's Employment Among Blacks, Whites, and Three Groups of Latinas: Do More Privileged Women Have Higher Employment? (WP-03-06)

Paula England, Carmen Garcia, and Mary Richardson

During much of U.S. history, black women had higher employment rates than white women. But by the late 20th century, women in more privileged racial-ethnic, national origin, and education groups are more likely to work for pay. We compare the employment of white women to blacks and three groups of Latinas—Mexicans, Cubans, and Puerto Ricans—and explain racial-ethnic group differences. White women work for pay more weeks per year than Latinas or black women. In all groups education encourages, and children reduce, employment, but having a husband does not reduce employment—and even husbands’ earnings have little effect. In explaining the lower employment rates of Latinas relative to white women, the authors found that the higher fertility of Mexican women and the large number of immigrants among Mexican and Cuban women reduce their employment. The higher education of white women explains large shares of the employment gap with each group of women of color because, in today’s labor market, education strongly predicts employment.

Paula England, Sociology and Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

Carmen Garcia, Institutional Research, Seminole Community College

Mary Richardson, Doctoral Student, Sociology, Northwestern University

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