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Latinas make, on average, 52 cents for every $1 that white, non-Hispanic men make.
This historic pay gap has worsened over time and contributes to poor health, especially in Latinas with expensive, chronic conditions, such as breast cancer.
Breast cancer is one of the most expensive cancers to treat. It also happens to be the most diagnosed cancer and leading cause of cancer death among Latinas.
In honor of Latina Equal Pay Day (Oct. 5, 2023) and Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October), we’re highlighting how Latina equal pay negatively impacts Latina breast cancer health outcomes and survivorship.
Why Does the Latina Wage Gap Exist?
Women in general earn 82% of what men earn.
The reasons for this wage gap are multifaceted, according to Pew Research.
Half of US adults blame the employer for gender wage disparities, agreeing that women are treated differently than men in the workplace. Others point to women making different choices about work-life balance, which impacts career growth.
Bias, systemic racism, and occupations also play a role, especially for women of color.
For example, Latinas are overrepresented in low-paying jobs, such as food service.
“Research shows that women are underpaid compared to men in nearly every job in food service, even after accounting for tips,” according to the American Association of University Women.
In addition to being overrepresented in low-paying jobs, Latinas are underrepresented in higher-paying jobs (1%), such as engineering and computing. This is partly due to a lack of access to higher education.
However, more Latinas are graduating from college than ever before, which further highlights the complexities of solving the Latina pay gap.
Unforeseen expenses – such as those associated with a breast cancer diagnosis – are even harder to manage.
Latinas and the Cost of Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is one of the most expensive cancers to treat because it often requires multiple treatments.
In fact, 61% of cancer patients and survivors find it somewhat or very difficult to afford their care, according to the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.
Due to the gender pay gap, women, especially Latinas, are more likely than men to be economically insecure even before their diagnosis.
Unfortunately, income plays a significant role in breast cancer prevention, treatment, and survivorship, according to a new report by Susan G. Komen.
Rent, gas, utilities, and food are the greatest financial barriers to breast cancer treatment, leaving patients forced to choose between medical appointments and medications or paying for everyday necessities.
To make matters worse, a new report by Deloitte finds that women pay 18% more than men in out-of-pocket healthcare expenses, excluding pregnancy-related expenses.
These out-of-pocket expenses include early-age annual checkups, gynecological examinations, breast cancer imaging, and menopause-related care.
“This combination of higher healthcare expenditures and the gender wage gap can negatively impact the financial and health status for employed women, potentially creating a choice between the care women need and the care they can afford,” according to the Deloitte report.
Advocating for Latina Equal Pay
These unjust financial struggles that fuel health inequities have spurred a national social movement for Latina equal pay.
Angelica Cazares of Houston, Texas, is one such Latina fighting for this cause.
Through community partnerships and support from her husband and team of Latina coworkers, Anjelica organized, coordinated, and hosted Houston’s first Latina Equal Pay Dinner on Dec. 8, 2022 (the same day as Latina Equal Pay Day 2022).
The dinner was full of meaningful conversations that spurred connections and collaborations among Houston’s most passionate, career-driven Latinas.
A key topic of conversation was the professional challenges that Latinas face and how these inequalities contribute to unequal pay.
In 2023, Angelica is hosting a Latina Equal Pay Brunch on Oct. 8 and is expecting an even bigger turnout than 2022.
“It’s time for us as Latinas to step into our own innate ability to lead without second-guessing ourselves,” Anjelica said.
Other organizations, such as Equal Pay Today, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement are also doing their part to address the Latina pay gap through policy change.
Health insurers and employers can do their part, too, according to the Deloitte report.
For instance, they can reevaluate and redesign benefit coverage to alleviate the financial strain on women and foster equity within organizations. This practice could help promote optimal health and well-being for all genders.
“Just as the ‘pink tax’ highlights price discrepancies in consumer products, the healthcare sector and employers should address these inequities to help ensure a fair and accessible healthcare system for everyone,” according to the Deloitte report.
Breast Cancer Financial Resources and Data
Cancer can be devastating – and it can be expensive.
As mentioned above, many women struggle to afford breast cancer treatment and everyday expenses. That’s where Komen’s Patient Care Center, staffed by patient navigators, can help.
You can also explore the financial status of your community.
Select your county and get a Health Equity Report Card by Salud America! at UT Health San Antonio.
In your report card, you will see local maps, data, and gauges to compare health equity issues, including median household income, cost-burdened households, transportation cost burden, population below poverty level, cancer incidence, cancer mortality, and more.
Email your Health Equity Report Card to community leaders, share it on social media, and use it to make a case to address people’s health where help is needed most!