Economic Security for Latinas: Reducing Poverty, Building Stability

with Jennifer Brown of UnidosUS

While poverty rates among Hispanics have reached historic lows, the middle class is still out of reach for many Hispanic families. What can be done to alleviate income-based challenges within this community?

Jennifer Brown of UnidosUS shares that an increase to the minimum wage and a commitment to equal pay are essential.

Posted on:

Aug 29, 2019

Hosted by: Nathalia Ortiz
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Ortiz: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Latinos have some of the highest poverty rates in the country. Despite this population entering the workforce in record-high numbers, Latinas are faced with a persistent, gender-based wage gap that continues to affect them, their families, and their communities. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Nathalia Ortiz. Joining me to discuss the challenges Latinas face financially is Jennifer Brown, associate director of Economic Policy at UNIDOSUS. Thank you so much for joining us.

Brown: No, thank you. Ortiz: Tell us why Hispanic women, in particular, are struggling financially in this country.

Brown: So, it's actually two reasons in particular. It's, first, the Latina pay gap, and, then, secondly, their concentration in minimum-wage jobs.

Ortiz: Okay. Why do you think, or what is your thought process [on why they are in these minimum-wage jobs. Why can't they get out of the minimum-wage jobs?

Brown: So traditionally, Latinas have been really concentrated in the same occupations and industries that we see them in now, which is usually the service industry, and, also, in hospitality, guest services and, also, in retail sales, as well. These opportunities were only open to them for a long period of time. And it's only until recently when Latinas have actually moved into healthcare industries that we've seen a little bit of a shift there. Ortiz: Okay. What can we do to support Hispanic women, and what is your organization doing to change this?

Brown: Oh, sure. So, we are actually supporting the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would actually make Latinas, who have only earned 61 cents on the dollar for what a white man makes every hour. The Paycheck Fairness Act would help close that gap and have an equal dollar-for-dollar split for women of not just Latinas, but for all women. So we're in support of the Paycheck Fairness Act. We're also in support of raising the minimum wage.] Right now, our country has a $7.25 minimum wage. We're in support of raising that minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Ortiz: Okay. How would you tell me [are the women that you're seeing, how are they surviving? Like, what are they doing to make ends meet? [

Brown: So, we know that Latinas] actually were the original side hustlers. They are the original gig workers. So, they've been, you know, really working those two and three jobs just to make --

Ortiz: I can relate. I have.

Brown: Yeah. And so women are still continuing to do that, Latinas especially. [And so our organization is really working to help, you know, make their jobs better, raise their wages, but also provide them better benefits at work so that they can get paid time off from work,] paid sick leave, and also raise their benefits so that they can not have to work so many jobs.

Ortiz: So, I also see here, part of your mission is strengthening of social securityLike you said, better paid family leave, equal pay policies. Talk to us a little bit more about that.

Brown: Okay, so, first off, on social security, you mentioned in your intro that Latinas have some of the highest poverty rates of all races and ethnicities. So, it's actually four -- one out of four Latinas who are over the age of 65 live in poverty in this country right now. And one of the biggest things that we can do is strengthen social security to help lift Latinas out of poverty. Something else we're really working on is increasing tax credits. So, we know that two tax credits in particular -- the earned income tax credit and the childcare tax credit --

Ortiz: Yeah.

Brown: -- really help lift Latinos out of poverty, especially Latinos over the age of 65 out of poverty. So we are working on helping expand those two credits to help further lift Latinas out of poverty.

Ortiz: So, I think the childcare benefit specifically resonates with me, and I think with a lot of Latina women, because that's probably another obstacle that -- you know, it's so expensive to have your children taken care of. But then you have to go work, and what do you do? Do you stay home? I mean, so talk to us more about that negotiation that women have to do with their lives here in this country, especially Hispanic women.

Brown: Absolutely. So, childcare is a challenge for every woman across the country and all families, and especially families of color. We're working right now to actually help increase costs -- not increase costs, not making it more expensive, but actually increase benefits to help reduce the cost of childcare in this country...

Ortiz: Right.

Brown: ...for all women, at all income levels. So especially low-income women that have to work and put their children in daycare in order to earn their paychecks. So for example, we're helping to expand the child independent tax credit, which is a credit that exists nowbut we want to expand it so that it actually keeps in pace with how expensive childcare is getting. It helps reduce the childcare expenses and helps put money back in people's pockets to actually help give them money to pay for childcare.

Ortiz: Jennifer, where can people go if they want to find out more information?

Brown: So, they can visit us at, or visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

Ortiz: Jennifer Brown from UNIDOS, thank you so much for visiting us.

Brown: Thank you.

Ortiz: And thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit I'm Nathalia Ortiz.

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