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What Is the Gender Pay Gap?


Question: What Is the Gender Pay Gap?
Every spring, women's rights groups "celebrate" the gender pay gap by marking the day -- usually in April -- when a typical woman's wages have finally caught up with what a typical man earned in the previous calendar year. While some part of the gender pay gap can be explained by women's choice of occupation, fewer working hours and time out of the workforce for motherhood, a stubborn pay gap remains between what men and women earn for the same work, which can only be explained by pay discrimination, either deliberate or built into workplace structures and decisions.

On average, women earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn for the same work, according to U.S. government data. That figure was unchanged from about 2000 to 2011, after rising from a level of 60 cents in 1971. The persistence of a gender pay gap means that families are poorer. After all, women's wages account for more than a third of household income, and 34 percent of working moms are the only breadwinner for their entire family.

You might wonder whether women make more money due their personal and lifestyle choices. But an analysis by the American Association of University Women found a pay gap of 5 percent between male and female college graduates in their first year of work, after accounting for college major, occupation, industry, sector, hours worked, workplace flexibility, experience, educational attainment, enrollment status, grade point average, institution selectivity, age, race, ethnicity, region, marital status, and number of children. A similar analysis 10 years after college graduation found a 12 percent unexplained difference in earnings, according to AAUW.

Looking at the full list of state salary statistics, the pay gap for women was worst in Wyoming (67 percent) and best in Washington DC (90 percent). Ranked second through fifth were Vermont, Maryland, Nevada and California. At the bottom of the barrel were Louisiana (second worst) and Utah (third to worst).

Also according to AAUW analysis of government data, the pay gap is the worst for Asian American women, then white, with African American and Hispanic women tied for earning the closest to what African American and Hispanic men earn. However, African Americans and Hispanics earn substantially lower than the other two racial groups, making it a bit of a sour pill to have the most equal pay gap.

International Gender Pay Gap

Looking at all developed countries around the globe, women earn 16 percent less than men working in similar jobs, according to the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development. Even though young women graduate school with better qualifications than young men, the OECD said, as both genders advance their careers, women's earnings fall behind by 10 percent before they turn 30. The gender pay gap is 7 percent for people without children, but that widens to a 22 percent pay gap between mothers and fathers with at least one child.

Comparing the U.S. gender pay gap to other developed countries, the U.S. falls roughly in the middle. The OECD report put the U.S. pay gap at 19 percent, better than Korea's 39 percent but not as equal as Hungary's 6 percent. The other countries highlighted by the OECD were New Zealand at 7 percent, Norway 8 percent, Belgium 9 percent, Sweden 15 percent, the United Kingdom 18 percent, Germany 22 percent and Japan at 29 percent.

Sources: the American Association of University Women and Source: the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development

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