Pay Equity and Discrimination
Women are almost half of the workforce. They are the sole or co-breadwinner in half of American families with children. They receive more college and graduate degrees than men. Yet, on average, women continue to earn considerably less than men. In 2018, female full-time, year-round workers made only 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 18 percent. This commonly cited statistic may be understating the extent of pay inequality; an IWPR analysis of women’s and men’s earnings over 15 years found that women made just half (49 percent) of what men earned.
Women, on average, earn less than men in nearly every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio. In middle-skill occupations, workers in jobs mainly done by women earn only 66 percent of workers in jobs mainly done by men. IWPR’s report on sex and race discrimination in the workplace shows that outright discrimination in pay, hiring, or promotions continues to be a significant feature of working life.
IWPR tracks the gender wage gap over time in a series of fact sheets updated twice per year. According to our research, if change continues at the same slow pace as it has done for the past fifty years, it will take 40 years—or until 2059—for women to finally reach pay parity. For women of color, the rate of change is even slower:
Hispanic women will have to wait until 2224 and Black women will wait until 2130 for equal pay.
IWPR’s Status of Women in the States project tracks the gender wage gap across states, by race/ethnicity and by age.
Reasons for the gender wage gap are multi-faceted. IWPR’s research shows that, irrespective of the level of qualification, jobs predominantly done by women pay less on average than jobs predominantly done by men. Women have made tremendous strides during the last few decades by moving into jobs and occupations previously done almost exclusively by men, yet during the last two decades there has been very little further progress in the gender integration of work. In some industries and occupations, like construction, there has been no progress in forty years. This persistent occupational segregation is a primary contributor to the lack of significant progress in closing the wage gap.
Persistent pay inequality can have far-reaching economic consequences. According to a recent regression analysis of federal data by IWPR, equal pay would cut poverty among working women and their families by more than half and add $513 billion to the national economy.
Since 1987, IWPR’s research on the gender wage gap and occupational segregation has changed the conversation on women’s pay and provided policymakers, journalists, and advocates the data they need to better inform the debate on women’s earnings.