Gender wage gap in U.S. makes women lose $500 billion every year

Elizabeth Avalos,
Staff Writer

A new Equal Pay Day study released this April has found that women across the United States are paid an average of 79 percent of what their male counterparts earn annually, doing the exact same work. The analysis was conducted by the National Partnership for Women and Families, a nonprofit organization from Washington D.C., based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The partnership found that women who are employed full-time, year-round, are paid 79 cents for every dollar paid to men. This amounts to a yearly gender wage gap of $10,762 for each woman individually, which in total translates into a substantial loss of nearly $500 billion for women all across the nation, annually.

The analysis spanned across all 50 states and found that for African American women and Latinas, the gap is even larger, falling at 60 cents and 55 cents respectively, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. For Asian women across the nation, the gap is smaller at 84 cents, which is also the average for women in the state of California alone.

California women who are employed full-time, year-round are paid 84 cents for every dollar paid to men, which translates into an individual yearly pay gap of $8,053, which in turn cost California women a total of $39 billion every year, according to the study.

The persistence of the gender wage gap is a major issue because in the United States, mothers are the primary or sole breadwinners in close to 40 percent of families. In fact, studies have shown that the wage gap is larger for mothers specifically than it is for women in general. The analysis reported that of the 15.2 million households that are headed by women, 31 percent of those families, which is approximately 4,658,047 family households, make below the poverty level.

“It is unacceptable that the wage gap has persisted, punishing the country’s women and families for decades,” Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership, stated. The report determined that if the gender wage gap were eliminated, women across the nation would be able to afford 83 more weeks of food for their families (1.6 years’ worth), seven more months of mortgage and utilities payments, 11 more months of rent and nine more years of birth control.

The celebration of Equal Pay Day, the day that symbolizes when women’s earnings have finally caught up to those of their male counterparts’ from the previous year, was recognized on April 12 this year. It took women from January 2015 until April 12, 2016, an extra three and a half months, to earn what men earned in the year 2015 alone — something U.S. Senator of Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren had much to say about.

“Equal Pay Day isn’t a national day of celebration. It’s a national day of embarrassment,” she stated in a video posted to her Facebook page on April 12, where she spoke about the celebration of Equal Pay Day and the gender wage gap.

“Too many families across the country feel like the game is rigged against them. They work hard, they play by the rules and they still struggled to make ends meet.” She explained that the game is especially rigged against women who make less than men for doing the same work, and often have to choose between a healthy pregnancy or receiving a paycheck.

Last September, experts from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) warned that men and women will not reach pay equity until 2059, unless the lack of supportive policies and bias experience a positive shift in favor of women. This warning was determined by the lack of significant improvement in the gender wage gap in recent years and the furthering projected pay equity date, which is now one year longer than the previously projected date.

The institute’s research estimated that the typical working woman loses approximately $530,000 over the course of her working life, while women who received a college education lose closer to $800,000, due to the gender wage gap.

With the presidential election approaching this November, many of the candidates have voiced their stance on this issue. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act during her time as senator, has long advocated for gender equality, especially in the economics sector. According to the National Partnership, the Paycheck Fairness Act “is a reasonable and comprehensive bill that would combat the wage discrimination that has plagued the nation for decades.”

During a sit-down with the with the CEO of Glassdoor Robert Hohman and 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup champion Megan Rapinoe among others on Equal Pay Day, Clinton stated that she would “use every tool” to close the gender wage gap. While she did not specify which “tools” she would use, she said that it’s something that is long overdue and that we have to keep moving forward.

Bernie Sanders, who has also spoken strongly about eliminating the gender wage gap, stated that “there is no rational economic reason why women should be earning 78 cents on the dollar compared to men,” during a rally in Greenville, South Carolina last August.

“A living wage should not only be fair, it should be equitable. We must pass pay equity for women workers,” Sanders stated on Twitter this past January, closing his tweet with the hashtag #EqualPayCantWait. In a separate tweet, he also applauded state legislatures for leading this trend.

Republican candidate Ted Cruz, on the other hand, has voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act three times in the past and abstained from doing so in 2014. Furthermore, in October of last year, at the Problem Solvers Convention in Manchester, N.H., his rival Donald Trump stated that women will achieve equal pay when they do “as good a job” as men in the workplace.

With new official studies that indicate exactly where the gender wage gap currently stands, it could be one of these candidates that determine whether we take larger strides forward within the next few years, or extend the IWPR’s prediction of when women will achieve pay equity even further.