Gender Wage Gap Larger Than Previously Thought

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research released a new study that claims that women today earn only 49 cents to a man’s dollar, not the 80 cents previously stated. While the earnings gap between men and women has narrowed, progress in the past 15 years has decreased.

However the study does not break the findings down by race, but it uses the Panel Study on Income Dynamics to obtain longitudinal data on gender earnings between men and women during a 15 year period. In the period from 2011-2015, there is a 51 percent gender gap for earnings.

Report Co-author and Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Heidi Hartmann, said that “much ink has been spilled debating whether the commonly cited measure of the wage gap –that women earn 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man- is an exaggeration due to occupational differences or so-called ‘women’s choices,’ but our analysis finds that we have actually been underestimating the extent of pay inequality in the labor market.”

Stephen J. Rose, Ph.D., the report’s other co-author, stated that “the good news is that, over the course of the nearly 50 years covered in the study, women have seen considerable progress in the labor force by entering the workforce at higher rates and staying in the labor force for longer periods of time, which have led to higher earnings and a narrower wage gap. As progress on achieving pay equity slows, it will be important to prioritize policies that strengthen women’s labor force attachment.”

The study also finds that there are still high penalties and costs for women who leave the labor force, even for just one year. Women, who took just one year out of the labor force, faced earnings that were 39% lower than women who consistently worked all 15 years of the study. The study recommends strengthening women’s access to the labor force through accessible paid leave and affordable childcare. Women today opt-out of the labor force at twice the rate of men because women are still disproportionately responsible for childcare. Without access to paid leave or childcare, women will be forced to leave the labor force, which has negative effects on earnings, even for short leave.

The report also recommends strengthening and enforcing Title IX and equal employment opportunity policies to bring women into high paying careers and fields that are often seen as hostile to women; this is crucial to closing the gender gap. However, we have recently seen a weakening and recension of Title IX rules under Department of Education Secretary Betsy Devos. Strengthening Title IX will protect and encourage women into more high paying career and educational fields.


Media Resources: Institute for Women’s Policy Research 11/28/18; Feminist Newswire 11/16/18

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