Story at a glance
- The Labor Department published a new analysis on the gender wage gap, and it found women are still paid significantly less than men.
- When comparing more than 300 jobs, none were identified where women had an earnings advantage over men.
- However, hundreds were identified where men had significantly higher earnings than women.
Ahead of Tuesday’s Equal Pay Day, the Department of Labor released new data that shows the gender wage gap still persists, with women being paid on average 83 percent of what men are paid.
Women of color are paid even less, about 57 percent of what white non-Hispanic men make.
Using the latest Census Bureau data available, the Women’s Bureau, in partnership with the Department of Labor, analyzed the gender wage gap and found that the majority of the gap between men and women’s wages couldn’t be explained through measurable differences between workers such as age, education, industry or work hours. That led the bureau to believe at least some of the unmeasured portion was a result of discrimination.
Another factor behind the wage gap, the department says, is that the types of jobs women are more likely to have than men are also the ones that tend to pay less. The bureau said industry and occupational segregation — where women are overrepresented in certain jobs and industries and underrepresented in others — leads to lower pay for women and contributes to the overall gender wage gap.
Jobs such as child care workers, domestic workers and home health aides are mostly held by women, and all of these roles pay below average wages. The bureau said women-dominated jobs like these are also less likely to include benefits, like employer-provided health insurance and retirement plans compared to jobs held by men.
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The Economic Policy Institute found typical domestic workers are paid $12.01 per hour and these workers are three times as likely to be living in poverty as other workers. They are also three times as likely to be living in poverty or be above the poverty line but still without sufficient income to make ends meet.
When comparing more than 300 jobs, the bureau found none where women had an earnings advantage over men but hundreds where men had significantly higher earnings than women. Regardless of occupation group, women were found to have lower average earnings than men, and Black and Hispanic women nearly always had the largest wage gaps of any group of women when compared to white men.
In service jobs, Black women are paid only 65 percent of what white men are paid, while Hispanic women are paid only 58 percent.
That speaks to how women’s labor is devalued, with the bureau saying the average pay for a job has been shown to decrease when women start to enter a field in large numbers. Jobs that employ a larger share of women pay lower wages even after accounting for characteristics of the workers and job, like education, skills and experience.
The bureau’s analysis found that in 2019 alone, segregation by industry and occupation cost Black women an estimated $39.3 billion and Hispanic women an estimated $46.7 billion in lower wages compared to white men.
“Efforts to close the gap must address occupational and industrial segregation, in addition to discrimination and other unmeasurable factors that drive down women’s, and especially women of color’s, pay,” said the Labor Department.
The pandemic has exacerbated the country’s gender wage gap, as it disproportionately affected women and people of color who tend to be concentrated in the lowest paying jobs and are more likely to shoulder unpaid family caregiving responsibilities.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a statement by its chair Charlotte A. Burrows in honor of Equal Pay Day and noted from February to April 2020, women lost 11.9 million jobs and 4.4 million women left the labor force completely — a phenomenon dubbed the “shecession.”
The gender wage gap doesn’t only force women to struggle financially, as Burrows said women “are less likely to have the opportunities they deserve to make a life for themselves, such as investing in their economic security, enhancing their personal growth and development, and enjoying quality time with their families.”
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