Nationwide, working families lose $200 billion of income annually to the wage gap. Many want to finally put a stop to all of this.
Many women feel that it s not like they get charged less for rent or food or utilities. In fact, they pay more for things like haircuts and dry cleaning, and so on. Over a life time of work, the 26 cents-on-the-dollar women are losing adds up. The average 25-year-old working woman will lose $523,000 to unequal pay during her working life.
And because women paid less now, they have less to save for they re futures and they will earn smaller pensions than men. In 1994, women s private-pension benefits were less than half those of men, just $3,000 a year, compared with $7,800.
These figures are even worse for women of color. African American women earn only 67 cents and Latinas 58 cents for every dollar that men earn. Asian Pacific American women earn less, too. Their pay inequality is less severe than for women as a whole, but still earn only 80 cents for every dollar that men earn.
Equal pay is a bread-and-butter issue for working families. More than two-thirds of all mothers in the United States work for pay. Two-earner families are today's norm among married couples, and a growing number of single women provide most or all of their families' support. Altogether, almost two-thirds of all working women and slightly more than half of married women responding to the AFL-CIO's 1997 Ask A Working
Woman survey said they provide half or more of their families' incomes.
Little wonder, then, that 94 percent of working women in the Ask A Working Woman survey almost every one described equal pay as "very important;" that two of every five cited pay as the "biggest" problem women face at work; and that one-third of all women and half of African American women said that, despite its importance, they do
not have equal pay in their jobs.
To better understand the wage gap for women and people of color in the United States and to better measure the price that wage inequality exacts from families and individual workers, the AFL-CIO and the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) jointly undertook a national study, including state-by-state breakouts, to analyze recent data from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The study confirms many recent analyses, finding that women who work full-time are paid only 74 cents for every dollar men earn or $148 less each week. Women of
color who work full-time are paid only 64 cents for every dollar men overall earn or
$210 less each week. Going further, the study uses more refined techniques to explore
the dimensions, and the full cost, of unequal pay.
America's working families lose a staggering $200 billion of income annually to
the wage gap an average loss of more than $4,000 each for working women's
families every year because of unequal pay, even after accounting for differences
in education, age, location and the number of hours worked.
If married women were paid the same as comparable men, their family incomes
would rise by nearly 6 percent, and their families' poverty rates would fall from
2.1 percent to 0.8 percent.
If single working mothers earned as much as comparable men, their family
incomes would increase by nearly 17 percent, and their poverty rates would be
cut in half, from 25.3 percent to 12.6 percent.
If single women earned as much as comparable men, their incomes would rise
by 13.4 percent, and their poverty rates would be reduced from 6.3 percent to 1
Working families in Ohio, Michigan, Vermont, Indiana, Illinois, Montana,
Wisconsin and Alabama pay the heaviest price for unequal pay to working women,
losing an average of roughly $5,000 in family income each year.
Family income losses due to unequal pay for women range from $326 million in
Alaska to $21.8 billion in California.
While the wage gap is much smaller than the national average in some states, the
numbers do not automatically signal improved economic status for women. The primary
reason for women's relatively improved status in many states is that the wages of
minority men are so low. This is particularly true for the District of Columbia, Arizona,
California, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
Women who work full-time are paid the least, compared with men, in Indiana,
Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming, where women earn less than 70 percent of men's weekly earnings.
Women of color fare especially poorly in Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska,
Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming, earning less than 60
percent of what men earn.
Even where women fare best compared with men in Arizona, California,
Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island women earn little
more than 80 percent as much as men.
Women earn the most in comparison to men 97 percent in Washington, DC,
but the primary reason women appear to fare so well is the very low wages of
For women of color, the gender pay gap is smallest in the District of Columbia,
Hawaii, Florida, New York and Tennessee, where they earn more than 70
percent of what men overall in those states earn.
As the percentage of women in an occupation rises, wages tend to fall. Workers who do what traditionally has been viewed as "women's work" clerical workers, cashiers, librarians, child care workers and others in jobs in which 70 percent or more of the workers are women typically earn less than workers in jobs that are predominately
male or are integrated by gender.
Both women and men pay a steep price for unequal pay when they do "women's work": The 25.6 million women who work in these jobs lose an average of $3,446 each per year; the 4 million men who work in predominately female occupations lose an average of $6,259 each per year for a whopping $114 billion loss for men and women in predominately female jobs.
At the state level, women who work in female-dominated jobs could increase
their salaries from $2,112 per year in Missouri to a high of $4,707 in Delaware if
they had equal pay. Annual wage gains for women in these jobs would exceed
$3,000 on average in 36 states. In 34 states, wages would increase by at least
$2,500 for women of color in female-dominated jobs.
For men in female-dominated jobs, state average increases would range from
$3,533 annually in the District of Columbia to $8,958 in Delaware if pay inequality
was eliminated. Minority men would see increases ranging from $1,918 in Colorado
to $7,996 in Alaska.
Union representation is a proven and powerful tool for raising workers' wages,
particularly for those most subject to labor market discrimination: women and minorities.
The typical female union member earns 38 percent more per week $157 than
a woman who does not belong to a union. Unionized women of color earn almost 39
percent more $135 than nonunion women of color. In fact, minority union women
earn $45 a week more than nonunion white women. Minority men who belong to unions
bring home 44 percent more $177 each week than nonunion men of color. Unions
also help close the wage gaps based on gender and minority status for their members.
Women represented by unions earn almost 84 percent as much as union men, while
unionized workers of color make about 81 percent as much as unionized white workers.
In the 35 years since the equal employment laws passed, women and people of color have made significant strides into the mainstream of the American workplace. But
lingering unequal pay robs women and their families of economic security, doubling
poverty rates for today's workers and threatening reduced retirement income and
greater poverty tomorrow.
There are three clear routes to ensuring that women receive equal pay: vigorous
enforcement of current equal pay laws, passage of stronger and better equal pay laws
and greater protections for workers' right to organize together into unions.