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Wealth—what we own minus what we owe—provides a stable foundation for economic security, allowing families to recover in times of crisis and work towards greater economic mobility.

As more women have joined the workforce—creating both dual- and single-income earning households—the labor market has made little progress in eliminating gender and race-based disparities in wages and employment outcomes. And, unfortunately, this limits women’s ability to build wealth over a lifetime.

In 2007, white women had a median wealth of $45,400, compared to $100 and $120 respectively for African American and Latina women. This fact sheet highlights the experiences of women of color in comparison with white men and women. In particular, we explore the economic effects of motherhood and differences in income, poverty, occupational segregation, savings and financial assets, and retirement security.

For Latinas and African American women, the type of employment and access to employer-provided benefits explain the large difference between their wealth accumulation and that of men all of races, as well as Asian and White women.

Two thirds of African American women and Latinas work in the service industry, where jobs are generally lower paying, seasonal, part-time and hourly. They also often offer less in the way of workplace benefits and support.

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Benefits provide crucial assistance for workers to build wealth and establish long-term stability because they support workers in times of unforeseen crisis and protect them against loss of wealth. For Latinas and African American women working in the service industry, a lack of benefits contributes to difficulty in accumulating wealth in comparison with other groups.

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To help low-income women of color build wealth, we must focus on policies targeted to their needs: childcare, child support, fringe benefits, paycheck fairness, and economic security.