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Report finds disparity in Native women's salaries

American Indian and Alaska Native women earn just 58 cents for every dollar earned by a White male, according to a report released this week.

Based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Native women who worked full-time earned an average of $25,500 in 1999. This was the second lowest level among all women, with Asian-American, White and African-Ameican earning more.

But gender played a larger role in economic status. According to the data, Native women only earned 57.8 percent of what White men earned, again the second lowest level among women of all racial and ethnic groups.

The Institute for Women's Policy Research compiled the data for "Women's Economic Status in the States: Wide Disparities by Race, Ethnicity and Region." Released on Tuesday, the report draws attention to the "two different economies" experienced by women and men in the nation.

"Native American women earn considerably less than African American, Asian American, and white women, and, with a poverty rate of 25.0 percent, they are more likely to be in poverty than any other major racial or ethnic group," wrote authors Amy Caiazza, April Shaw and Misha Werschkul.

According to the report, Native women earn less than women and men of other racial groups for a variety of reasons, but mostly due to the effects of colonization. Previously, Native women enjoyed a high level of equity with Native men, the report says.

Other factors, including lack of employment opportunities and geographic isolation, also contribute to the lower earning power of Native women, the authors say. "As a result, Native American women also have very low rates of labor force participation and unemployment, which in turn contribute to lower earnings and higher poverty," they write.

Connecticut, Maryland and Alaska were deemed the "best" states for Native women to work. In these three states, of which only Alaska has a significant Native population, Native women earned well above the average of $25,500.

On the other hand, several states with significant Native populations were the "worst states" for Native women. These included North Dakota, Montana and Nebraska. In North Dakota, Native women on average earned just $19,000.

When ranked by poverty, the states of Arizona, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, had the highest rates. All have significant Native populations.

"These findings suggest that, in general, Native Americans are more likely to experience hardship where they are most concentrated," the report states.

There were also differences in earning power based on tribe. According to the report, Eskimo women earned an average of $32,600 and Athabaskan women earned an average of $30,900. These were the only two tribes whose wages matched those of White women.

In contrast, Yaqui women in Arizona earned the lowest of all tribes, $21,000. Based on poverty, nearly 40 percent of Tohono O'odham Nation women from Arizona lived in poverty. The Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma had the lowest poverty rate, 14.1 percent, of all tribes.

Get the Report:
Women's Economic Status in the States: Wide Disparities by Race, Ethnicity and Region (April 20, 2004)