Wage Gap Narrows, But We’re Not Cheering Yet

Recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that the gender-wage gap has barely budged in the past year. Now, a woman earns 78 cents for every dollar a man earns (versus last year’s 77 cents)—a shift the Census Bureau calls “not statistically significant.

When women are further categorized by race, the wage gap widens into a chasm: 64 cents for African American women and 56 cents for Latinas. Add to that the fact that married women are the primary or co-breadwinners in more than two-thirds of U.S. families and that women are the heads of household in 15.2 million homes across the country and these numbers become even more troubling.

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The pay gap amounts to an average income loss of nearly $11,000 per year for women, which equals 12 months of rent, more than 3,000 extra gallons of gas and more than a year and a half worth of food.

Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families stated:

These new data and analysis are a sobering reminder of just how much the wage gap is costing America’s women, families and our economy. … It is simply unacceptable that the wage gap and pay discrimination continue to go unaddressed and unchecked by members of Congress. We know from Census data and the experiences of women across the country that the wage gap exists regardless of industry, occupation and education, and it is not getting appreciably better.

Despite the persistence of the wage gap and the overwhelming evidence of how it hurts women and families, Congress has yet to take any action to mitigate the problem. Republicans blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act yet again in the Senate last week. This marked the fourth time since 2012 that conservatives have voted against the equal pay legislation. The act would bolster the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by adding extra protections for employees who discuss wages with co-workers and by requiring employers to hand over pay data broken down by race and sex to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said after the 52-40 Senate vote:

A woman who performs the same work as a man should be paid the same as a man. Senate Republicans simply cannot accept that notion… American women deserve better.

Photo courtesy of Tax Credits via Creative Commons 2.0.


Associate editor of Ms. magazine