San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Study: Women Earn 17 Percent Less in Latin America

A recently released working paper by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) paints a grim picture for women, black and indigenous employees throughout Latin America, saying they earn measurably less than their white or male counterparts.

The study surveyed 18 Latin American countries and found that men earn 17 percent more than women of the same age and education level. The study also found that persons of African and indigenous descent earn 28 percent less.

“The region still faces major challenges in terms of eradicating labor market disadvantages based on characteristics such as gender or ethnicity,” said report authors Juan Pablo Atal, Hugo Ñopo and Natalia Winder in their analysis. “Policies that are aimed at reducing these inequalities are still in need, not only because of ethical considerations regarding equality, but as a major strategy to reduce poverty in the region.”

Concerning the gender gap, Costa Rica fell right in the middle in terms of income disparity, with men earning 13.7 percent more than women. Bolivia and Guatemala boast the smallest gaps, with women actually earning more than men in Bolivia. Brazil showed the largest gap, with men earning 29.7 percent more than women.

The study looked further into these numbers and found the gender wage gap is more narrow among younger people. Analysts suspect this could be evidence that reform and education efforts are slowly closing the gap. But, they say, it also may be because many women leave the labor market when they enter child-rearing years and reenter it later at a lower level of pay.

Because Costa Rica does not track income in terms of ethnicity, the Central American country did not factor into the IDB’s statistics for ethnic discrepancy.

Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru and Paraguay were the only countries with ethnic information available in their household surveys.

–Chrissie Long


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