ERA Project

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The United States has a sex equality problem that disproportionately impacts women of color. Despite the passage of sweeping federal, state, and local laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in employment, education, public benefits, housing, healthcare, voting, and in significant aspects of the U.S. economy and society, women — and particularly women of color — continue to experience persistent sex discrimination. These laws, starting with the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, make up what we call the 20th Century Sex Equality Paradigm.

At face value, such laws can be credited with having made considerable progress in dismantling stubborn forms of sex-based inequality for women. For instance, in 1960, women earned 60% of what men earned for the same or comparable work, and today that gap has been reduced to about 82%. Yet, a deeper examination of this data reveals a harsher truth: white women have been the primary beneficiaries of sex equality laws, leaving women of color significantly behind.

The policy brief examines this equality gap, demonstrating how the existing sex equality paradigm does not adequately account for the ways in which sex and race discrimination intersect with one another. In reality, an approach to combating sex discrimination that ignores or tacks on considerations of race discrimination disguises how the benefits of existing equality measures have been distributed in ways that center white women and further marginalize women of color. Thus, the implicit focus on the experiences of white women that is built into the current sex equality paradigm creates an equality gap that is itself a serious problem of gender-based injustice. The paper utilizes comparative data to measure the extent of sex-based inequality in society for women of color as compared with their white female counterparts.

THE SEX EQUALITY GAP Executive Summary.pdf (146 kB)
Executive Summary