In case you missed it, the National Partnership for Women and Families released updated state-by-state analysis of the pay gap women workers face. According to Census Bureau data released recently, overall women workers were typically paid just 78 cents for every dollar paid to a man – adding up to a difference of $11,450 over the course of the year. The National Partnership found that while the gender wage gap varies, it hits every corner of the country– the wage gap is highest in Utah where women are paid just 60 cents for every dollar paid to men.
Last week, the National Partnership also released analysis on the state of the wage gap for women of color, particularly
• Latina women workers are paid 52 cents for every dollar white, non-Hispanic men workers are.
• Native American women are typically paid just 55 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.
• Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women are typically paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to a white, non-Hispanic man.
• Black women workers are paid 66 cents for every dollar white, non-Hispanic men workers are.
• Compared to White women workers, who are paid 74 cents for every dollar white, non-Hispanic men workers are.
“While the wage gap didn’t change substantially for Black (66 cents) or Latina women (52 cents) last year, it’s important to note that median earnings decreased more than 2 percent for all workers, and almost 9 percent post-tax after adjusting for inflation,” said Anwesha Majumder, Economist at the National Partnership for Women and Families. “This means the people who are least likely able to afford additional economic tightness, namely Black, Native American and Latina women, are the ones who have been most squeezed by the huge rise in inflation and the expiration of our COVID-era social safety net, including the Child Tax Credit.”
The gender pay gap cost women $1.6 trillion in 2022, and it persists regardless of industry. Gender and race discrimination directly and indirectly play a large role in the wage gap. Occupational segregation, including the overrepresentation of women in low wage work, and the lack of workplace policies to support workers’ family, caregiving needs and health needs are additional factors contributing to the country’s pay gap. When women are the leaders of their families and breadwinners for their households – as half of mothers in the U.S. are – families that depend on these paychecks struggle more to provide necessities and to save and invest over time.
America’s women and the wage gap
Across all workers in the United States in 2022, including those working part-time or part of the year, women were typically paid just 78 cents for every dollar paid to a man – adding up to a difference of $11,450 over the course of the year.1
Even when looking just at those in full-time, year-round jobs, women in 2022 were typically paid just 84 cents for every dollar paid to a man. But that figure does not count more than 27 million women workers, eflecting the many factors – including occupational segregation, lack of support for caregiving and lack of control over work hours – that mean women are more likely than men to be in part-time or certain seasonal jobs.
These numbers are more than facts and figures; they represent the tangible consequences of sexism and white supremacy in the United States and how our country systematically devalues women of color and their labor. This persistent, pervasive wage gap is driven in part by gender and racial discrimination, workplace harassment, job segregation and a lack of workplace policies that support family caregiving, which is still most often performed by women.
The gender wage gap is a measure of just how far our nation still has to go to ensure that women can participate fully and equally in our economy – and it is widest for many women of color. In 2022, white, non-Hispanic women were paid 74 cents; Black women 66 cents; Latina women 52 cents, and Native American women 55 cents, and Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women as little as 52 cents, as Burmese and Nepali women are, and overall just 80 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.
The wage gap also varies by state and congressional district but spans nearly all corners of the country. In Utah, for example, women are paid 60 cents for every dollar paid to men (a gap of 40 cents for every dollar), while in the District of Columbia women are paid 87 cents for every dollar paid to men (a gap of 13 cents). In all 435 congressional districts and the District of Columbia, the median yearly pay for women is less than the median yearly pay for men.
What does the wage gap mean for America’s women?
On average, women employed in the United States lose a combined total of over $1.6 trillion every year due to the wage gap. These lost wages mean women and their families have less money to support themselves, save and invest for the future, and spend on goods and services. Women, their families, businesses and the economy suffer as a result.
If the annual gender wage gap were eliminated, on average, a working woman in the United States would have enough money for approximately:
• Nearly 13 additional months of child care;
• More than one year of tuition and fees for a four-year public university, or the full cost of tuition and fees for a two-year college;
• Seven additional months of premiums for employer-based health insurance;
• Nearly 64 weeks of food (more than one year’s worth);
• Almost seven more months of mortgage and utilities payments;
• Nearly 9 months of rent; and
• Or enough money to pay off student loan debt in just over three years.
Women, families and the country cannot afford discrimination and lower wages
• In the United States, mothers are breadwinners in 40 percent of families with children under 18 each year – and about 70 percent will be the primary earner at some point in their first 18 years of motherhood.
• Forty-eight percent of white mothers, 49 percent of Latina mothers, 79 percent of Black mothers, 64 percent of Native American mothers and 43 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander mothers are breadwinners in their households. Yet the wage gap for mothers is larger than for women overall. Mothers overall are paid just 62 cents for every dollar paid to fathers; comparing just full-time, year-round workers, mothers are still paid only 74 cents for every dollar paid to fathers.
• More than 35 million households in the United States are headed by women, more than 6 million of them with children under 18. More than 8.4 million of those households – including 2 million with minor children – have incomes that fall below the poverty level. Eliminating the wage gap would provide much-needed income to women whose wages sustain their households.
The wage gap cannot be explained by choices
The wage gap persists regardless of industry. In the civilian industries that employ the most people, women are paid less than men. In the health care and social assistance industry, women are paid just 69 cents for every dollar paid to men. In retail trade, 75 cents. In manufacturing, just 75 cents. And in educational services, 85 cents. Across all industries, women are paid less than men.22
The wage gap is present within occupations. Across the occupations employing the most people, women are paid less than men. In office and administrative support occupations, women are paid just 89 cents for every dollar paid to men. In sales occupations, 59 cents. In transportation and material moving, 79 cents. In health care, 74 cents. In education, 77 cents. And in management, 77 cents.
The wage gap exists regardless of education level. Women with master’s degrees are paid just 72 cents for every dollar paid to men with master’s degrees. Further, among all workers, women with associate’s degrees are paid less than men with just a high school diploma, and women with master’s degrees are paid less than men with bachelor’s degrees.
Numerous causes contribute to the wage gap, including discrimination and bias. Compared to men, women tend to hold lower-paying jobs, work in lower-paying industries and spend less time in the formal workforce. These trends result from factors ranging from pervasive stereotypes and social norms about gender and work, to a lack of workplace support for family caregiving, to gender and racial discrimination, to the devaluation of work when it is primarily done by women – and the effects are both starker and qualitatively different for women of color.
Statistical analysis shows that even after controlling for factors like occupational and industry differences, differences in experience and education, and region and unionization — which themselves are not solely the result of women’s choices — 38 percent of the gap is unaccounted for, leading researchers to conclude that factors such as discrimination and unconscious bias continue to affect women’s wages.
America’s women are concerned about drivers of the wage gap, including unfair pay
Women consider equal pay a top issue. Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, three-quarters of women voters (76 percent) said that strengthening equal pay laws is either “very important” or “one of the most important things Congress can do.”
Seven in 10 (72 percent) women support protecting employees’ right to discuss their salaries, and nearly seven in ten (69 percent) want to require employers to report pay data to improve enforcement of anti-discrimination laws.
Less than one-third of women believe they are paid fairly. Just 30 percent of U.S. women in the workforce say they are very sure their employer pays men and women equally for the same work. Nearly six in 10 women (58 percent) say they have faced gender or racial discrimination or barriers to a better job.
Women want Congress to enact policies that would help close the wage gap. Nearly nine in 10 women voters (87 percent) support paid family and medical leave for all workers. More than eight in 10 (84 percent) support ensuring access to high- quality, affordable child care. Eight in 10 (82 percent) support increasing wages for tipped workers, and nearly eight in ten (78 percent) raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour.
Nearly eight in 10 (77 percent) support providing access to comprehensive health care and more than two-thirds (68 percent) support protecting access to reproductive health care, including abortion.
A path toward closing the wage gap
Despite the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 and other protections for women, unless something changes, women and men who work full-time, year-round will not reach pay parity on average until 2059 – and not until 2133 for Black women or 2206 for Latinas. Right now, the lack of supportive policies and bias combine to make closing the wage gap elusive.
There are federal policy solutions that would help
• Fair pay protections and practices. The Paycheck Fairness Act would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who discuss their wages and make it easier to demonstrate that discrimination has occurred. It would also prohibit screening of job applicants based on their salary histories. The Fair Pay Act would diminish wage disparities that result from gender-based occupational segregation.
• A higher minimum wage and elimination of the tipped minimum wage. The Raise the Wage Act would increase the federal minimum wage to $17 an hour by 2028 and gradually eliminate the subminimum wage for tipped workers and workers with disabilities. Greater access to overtime pay through updated U.S. Department of Labor regulations would also help make wages more fair for millions of working people.
• Stronger protections against and remedies for workplace harassment. The Ending the Monopoly of Power Over Workplace Harassment through Education and Reporting Act would address certain issues related to workplace harassment, including by prohibiting nondisclosure and non-disparagement clauses as a condition of employment, promotion and in other circumstances and requiring companies to disclose the number of harassment claims they settle each year and the amount paid out. Congress should advance additional workplace harassment policy solutions, such as protection of workers not currently protected by federal civil rights laws.
• Family friendly workplace standards. The Healthy Families Act would allow workers to earn job-protected paid or unpaid sick days. The FAMILY Act would create a national paid family and medical leave program, ensuring that all workers, regardless of gender, could address serious health and caregiving needs. Both proposals would help keep women attached to the workforce and support more gender-equal involvement in caregiving, resulting in higher wages over time. Pregnancy discrimination protections, as provided in the newly-enacted Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and access to quality, affordable child care and predictable schedules are also essential for retention and advancement of women in the workforce.
• Stronger protections for workers’ right to organize. Unions have been proven to provide women with higher wages and better benefits and to close gender and racial wage gaps. The Protecting the Right to Organize Act would strengthen workers’ ability to unionize and bargain collectively, impose stronger remedies when employers interfere with those rights, and address employers’ misclassification of workers as contractors which denies them the opportunity to organize.
• Full funding for federal agencies that investigate and enforce fair pay. The Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as well as executive branch initiatives to collect pay information and promote fair pay, are critically important to uncovering and eliminating discriminatory workplace practices that harm women.
• Comprehensive reproductive health care. Access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including abortion care and contraceptives, allows women to plan out and control their lives, enabling them to pursue education and career opportunities, and can increase workforce attachment and wages over time. Defending policies like the Affordable Care Act’s guarantee of a full range of contraceptives without co-pay, increasing for funding our nation’s Title X family planning program and reversing the domestic gag rule for Title X-funded clinics are critical to ensuring women get the reproductive health care they need. Passage of the Women’s Health Protection Act would protect the right of health care providers to provide abortion care and a right for their patients to receive that care, free from medically unnecessary restrictions that single out abortion and impede access, and the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act would help reduce barriers to abortion care, improving women’s health and economic security.
Together, these policies will help ensure that women and all working people are free from wage and employment discrimination, have support to meet their responsibilities at work and at home and have the tools to be able to decide whether and when to become a parent or grow their family, and finally help close the gap between the wages paid to women and men.
About The National Partnership for Women and Families
The National Partnership for Women and Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, access to quality, affordable health care and policies that help all people meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at NationalPartnership.org.