Release of the Latina Portrait: Latinas and Economic Security- 10/09/14

Report Highlights Economic Security as Major Issue for Latinas

Chicago, IL-Mujeres Latinas en Acción and the UIC Center for Research on Women and Gender released the Latina Portrait: Latinas and Economic Security at a press conference attended by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Deputy Chief of Staff Amalia Rioja from the Office of Governor Pat Quinn, State Representative Lisa Hernandez, and State Senator Tony Munoz. The Latina Portrait, one in a series of research reports published by Mujeres examining the experience of Latinas in Illinois, highlights the unique issues faced by Latina low-wage workers and the barriers faced in obtaining economic security. The Latina Portrait is the first report of its kind to examine minimum wage, wage theft, and low-wage industries from the perspective of Latinas living in Illinois. The report delves into barriers faced by Latinas, including immigration status, childcare, and transportation, and provides recommendations for policy makers and community organizations.

Maria Pesqueira, the President and CEO of Mujeres Latinas en Acción, spoke about the need for such a report and why economic issues are so important for the Latino community: “Economic security is an issue crucial to many of the women we serve, whether they are coming in for domestic violence services or to take a parenting class. Our clients support families while making the minimum wage, often trying to make ends meet by taking on multiple jobs. Pay equity, raising the minimum wage, and providing violence-free working conditions are crucial steps for Latinas and their families to achieve economic security.”

“The report released today addresses the root causes of the issues facing low-wage workers, who more often than not are minority women,” Senator Durbin said.  “Raising the minimum wage is an essential first step, but more needs to be done. With Latina women currently making only 60 cents for every dollar a man makes, narrowing the pay gap is also crucial. I look forward to continuing to work with Mujeres Latinas to find solutions to these problems and bring about economic security for low wage workers."

“Issues such as increasing the minimum wage, economic stability, access to child care, and a good education for their children are important to all of Chicago, but we recognize that Latinas face unique barriers to achieving these basic goals,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Only by recognizing this can we make policies that are supportive and inclusive of all Chicagoans.”

Blanca Hidalgo, a volunteer at Mujeres, shared her story, “I work the night shift at a factory for forty hours, then cut hair and sell shoes and perfume on the weekends. Even though I work seven days a week, I still have trouble making ends meet.”

The Latina Portrait reveals that:

  • Latinas experience unique challenges to achieving living wage employment and economic security, including immigration status, childcare, transportation, and the deportation of family members.
  • From 2001 to 2011, the percent of adult formal sector workers in low-wage jobs that paid no more than $12 an hour rose from 23.8% to 31.2%. Many of these jobs are central to family income and around 56.7% of low-wage workers in Chicago in 2011 were living in households where all the wage earners held low-wage jobs.[i]
  • Undocumented Latin American women workers face a 36% wage penalty.[ii]  This has local implication as women make up almost half (48%) of the undocumented population in Illinois.[iii]  
  • For many Latinas in low-wage work, maintaining employment is crucial to economic well-being, even when experiencing sexual violence in the workplace. Low- wage workers who experience intimate partner violence face high economics costs, including decreased work hours and income due to injury or attending court dates.

Key recommendations from the Latina Portrait:

  • Increase the minimum wage to $15/hour in Chicago and $10.65 in Illinois
  • Tie the new minimum wage to inflation to avoid future erosion of future value
  • Pass legislation that improves the lives of low-income workers, including Earned Sick Time and the Illinois Domestic Workers Bill of Rights
  • Address the needs of millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States
  • Expand and improve access to transportation in the Chicago metro area
  • Increase access to quality education, particularly for marginalized communities
  • Raise the poverty threshold for public benefits, including childcare

About Latina Portraits:

The Latina Portrait series, published by Mujeres for over a decade, provides an overall examination of Latina experiences in the Chicago area. Policy recommendations are always included in the report to address the root causes of issues facing Latinas in the Chicago metropolitan area. The Latina Portrait reports are released annually at the Maria Mangual Latina Leadership Conference, a leadership conference bringing together Latinas from throughout Chicago for a day of professional development and advocacy training.

To view this and past Latina Portraits, please visit


[i] Doussard, Marc.  2012.  “Chicago’s Low-Wage Workforce: A Profile of Falling Labor Market  Fortunes.”  Prepared for Women Employed and Action Now Institute.

[ii] Mehta, Chirag, Nik Theodore, Iliana Mora, and Jennifer Wade.  2002.  Chicago’s Undocumented  Immigrants: An Analysis of Wages, Working Conditions, and Economic Contributions.  Chicago, IL: Center for Urban Economic Development, UIC. 

[iii] Tsao, Fred. 2014. “Illinois’ Undocumented Population: A Summary of Recent Research.”Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Chicago, IL: ICIRR.