There are about 30 million Hispanic women or Latinas living in the United States, according to the U.S. government. More than eight million of these women are mothers. In addition to raising their children, sometimes as single Moms, Latina moms face many additional challenges in their daily lives. Latina moms deal with the wage gap that puts them in economically unfair conditions compared to White mothers to dealing with stereotypes and myths about Latiné/x culture.
How do Latinas perceive their pregnancies and motherhood in the United States?
Let’s go through five of the most important challenges that Latina moms in the U.S. face in their daily lives.
1 - The pay gap
Money, money, money… The first big gap to close has to do with finances.
It’s not breaking news that Latina women are paid less than White men and White women. The last Latina Equal Pay Day was on December 8, 2022 which meant that Latinas had to work about 23 months to get the same salary that cisgender White men earned in just one year. In other words, Latinas earn $0.55 for every dollar men earn. This inequality prevents Latinas to earn through their lifetime the staggering figure of 1.6 million dollars in addition to their usual earnings.
Today is #EqualPayDay, marking the day when the average pay for women catches up to the pay for men from the previous year.— New American Leaders (@NewAmericanLd) March 24, 2021
Women lose $406,000 on average over the course of a 40-year career to the wage gap, and that # is around $900k for many women of color.
🎨 @WomenEmployed pic.twitter.com/o39ybYXRQt
During pregnancy and even after giving birth, family expenses increase significantly. According to the Peterson-Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), the average cost of giving birth in the United States without health insurance is $18,865. This includes pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care. Thousands of dollars can be saved with health insurance, but there are still other expenses to consider such as medicines and the hospitalization of the baby.
Parenting costs are also very high. A February 2020 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that a family will spend about $233,610 (or $14,000 a year) raising a child between birth and college admission.
When you consider the large wage gap that exists between Latinas and cisgender White females, raising a child is especially challenging financially for a Latina. According to Annie E. Casey Foundation’s 2017 original study, 40% of Latinx children are raised by only one parent, usually the mother. This number is higher than the national average and twice that of non-Hispanic White families.
2 - More depression and anxiety
A study by the Citizens’ Committee for Children found that Latina moms are more likely than non-Hispanic moms to develop anxiety or illnesses such as depression. The study conducted in the 2021 found that 42 percent of Latina women with children and living in New York had reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. The percentage of White and Black women who reported these symptoms was 36 percent.
In the report, Dr. Rosa Gil, director of Comunlife, a non-profit organization focused on housing and mental health service for the Latinx community explains that among the factors for the circumstances is the economic situation of Latina women. According to the study, it all circles back to money again.
3 - Discrimination
Another challenge Latina moms must battle is discrimination. A frequent problem for the Latinx community in the United States is discrimination. A 2022 Pew Research study, found that 31% of Hispanic people residing in the U.S. claimed to have suffered discrimination from a non-Hispanic person.
Discrimination’s impact and actions are deeper than the occasional bad look or racial swear word. Discrimination affects every aspect of a person’s life including motherhood and Latina mothers’ access to health. The impacts are quite alarming when according to the Centers For Disease (CDC) noted a rise in Latina maternal deaths in 2020 up 44 percent from the previous year. The CDC reported for every 100,000 births Latina mothers died at 18.2 deaths in 2020 up from 12.6 deaths in 2019 making Latina maternal mortality higher than White and Black mothers. It’s not hard to correlate equal Latina mother’s access to healthcare, survival rates and increased quality of life.
Consider this article according to The New York Times undocumented Latinas were fearing getting prenatal care because of legislation such as the “public charge” policy was rolled out during the Trump Administration (The Biden administration tossed it out the policy) During the Trump Administration era, many Latinas without legal status in the United States stopped going to hospitals for prenatal check-ups for fear of being expelled from the country and facing discrimination.
A 2022 an American Heart Association news article “After a Jump in Maternal Mortality for Hispanic Women, a Search for Answers” read:
“‘Hispanic women often display optimal health behaviors while pregnant’, said social epidemiologist Emma Sanchez-Vaznaugh, a professor in the department of public health at San Francisco State University. ‘For example, they are less likely to smoke and drink alcohol during pregnancy,’ she said.
‘But they often find themselves at the bottom of the economic ladder in jobs that do not provide insurance,’ she said. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2019, Hispanic mothers already were less likely to receive prenatal care – and when they did, it was late in pregnancy – compared to white mothers.
4 - Fighting against stereotypes
Latina, Black and other women of color mothers in the U.S. must face several stereotypes and myths. Although some seem outdated they very much still exist in the modern day U.S. Let’s see some of them below.
Stereotype 1: They’re all housewives
According to a report by EC Hispanic Media, Latina moms are perceived by other people as the ones in charge of doing the housework and raising their children.. Also, Latinas have to fight against the belief that they’re not successful women or that their jobs are often related to caretaker roles. Of course, while this is a stereotype, it’s important to note that there is a very strong patriarchal structure that prevents women in general and Latinas in particular from having leadership roles.
Stereotype 2: They only exist through their family and community duties
There is a traditional belief that Latinas have a duty to be a mother and to create a close circle with the extended family or relationships with the church. According to this stereotype, they only define themselves through their children and family rather than as independent individuals. It’s hard to thrive in a society that doesn’t see you as a whole person.
Stereotype 3: They drop out of school to raise children
A stereotype is the belief Latinas will abandon their studies and jobs to raise their children (which could be a deterrent for employers for future hiring). It has been proven that this is not true: according to a study carried out by Univision, 73 percent of Latina mothers consider that being a mother is not a reason to abandon their professional ambitions. As a counterpart, this belief is held by 66 percent of non-Hispanic mothers too.
Additionally, Latinas consider it important for their children to achieve their academic goals as cited by a Mintel study. They prioritize their education because they believe that a college degree is key to a successful future.
5 - Bilingual parenting
One of the challenges that Latina moms are facing is raising a bilingual child in the U.S. The 2019 U.S. Census figures report 62 percent of the U.S. speak Spanish and or are bilingual or roughly totals 41 million Spanish speakers in the U.S. In 2015 Pew Research reported three-in-four Hispanic people or about 73 percent of ages five and up speak Spanish in their homes. Non-U.S. born and U.S. born Latinas are challenged navigating the journey to keep the love and understanding for their Spanish language without compromising or cutting their cultural roots. Want to learn more about this topic? These are some bilingual parenting resources and blogs you should read:
What to do with these figures?
As we have learned, being a Latina mom in the U.S. comes with a few challenges on top of the already-burdening physiological challenges of motherhood—try pregnancy, childbirth, sleep deprivation, lactation, parenting costs…
But how do we take action? We Latinas often have to stand up for ourselves. However, this places the responsibility of fixing all these inequalities and social-inequities on those experiencing the disparities. That’s why it’s important for those in power to prioritize Latinas in leadership positions and for policymakers to work towards reducing the gaps that lead to these social and economic inequities. If we’re not in any of those powerful positions, we can continue educating, reporting, advocating and making what’s at hand reach for Latinas to be able to thrive personally and professionally while they bring more of us into the world.