Women in North Carolina have narrowed the gap with men in terms of wages and have made advances in obtaining higher education and in access to health care in recent years, according to a study released Thursday.

The 2012 Status of Women in North Carolina report updates a study that was conducted in 1996.

The study notes that women statewide earn on average 83 cents for every dollar earned by men in similar jobs. In the Triangle, the disparity is even worse, with women earning 79 cents on the dollar.

Twenty years ago, the wage gap for women was 28 cents on the dollar, according to the study.

Other findings indicate that North Carolina women are more likely than men to hold a college degree, yet they’re also more likely to live below the federal poverty line. Also, families headed by single mothers have the lowest median income of all family household types.

“Education is an important form of protection against poverty, not only for a wage-earning parent but also for her children,” Gov. Beverly Perdue said in a news conference at Wake Technical Community College in Garner. “Economic instability for women casts a long shadow, but our push to make education and job-ready training more affordable and accessible is helping to turn the tide.”

The study also shows women have become more politically powerful than they were in 1996.

There are more women lawmakers and leaders in North Carolina, including Perdue, the state’s first female governor. In the last presidential election, 69 percent of eligible women voted in the state, compared with 66 percent voter turnout among men.

Perdue said women should remember the economic challenges they face when they go to the polls next month.

“You got a lot of people all over this state and country running around shaking hands and promising you the moon,” she said. “Ask them where they stand on pay equity. Ask them where they stand on child care and health care benefits for women and their families. Ask them those questions before you promise them (your) vote.”