A full-time female employee in the United States makes 78 cents for every dollar a man earns, according to a new report.
The median yearly pay for a woman working full-time is $39,157, compared to $50,033 for a man. The lost potential income, says the report, amounts to $490 billion annually.
Where a woman lives can make a big difference in how much she earns comparatively. Female workers in Louisiana face the biggest differential, earning 66 cents for every dollar. In Washington, D.C., women make 91 cents, the highest rate in the nation.
The report's authors attribute those variations partly to which industries are dominant in each state. Among federal employees, for example, the wage gap is narrower compared to an industry like manufacturing, where women are paid 73 cents for every dollar a man earns.
The pay disparity between men and women exists across industry, occupation and education level. Even when these factors are taken into account, researchers have found an unexplained gap that is likely due to bias or discrimination.
The pay gap is even worse for women of color. African-American and Latina women who work full-time are paid 64 and 56 cents, respectively, for every dollar a white man earns. The gap is smaller for Asian-American women, who earn 79 cents.
The report's calculations are based on data about men and women who work full-time throughout the year. Women, however, are more likely to work part-time, and the report does not explain how the pay gap affects them.
When the Pew Research Center conducted its own analysis of earnings data in 2013 using hourly wages and including part-time workers, it found that women made 84 cents per dollar.
Critics argue that the pay gap overstates the problem of gender-based disparity in earnings, pointing to the fact that women leave the workforce to raise children or provide caregiving to family members far more frequently than men. Research shows that this indeed significantly affects a woman's lifetime earnings. Women also tend to work lower-paying jobs than men, which could explain the disparity.
The report's authors argue that the pay gap could be closed with a number of policies. Paid family and medical leave, for instance, could help prevent women from leaving the workforce to care for family members. A higher federal minimum wage might particularly benefit women because they comprise the majority of employees working at that rate, and states with a higher minimum wage have smaller pay gaps between women and men.
The report estimates that eliminating the gap would give a working woman enough money to pay for approximately 86 more weeks of food, 7.6 more months of mortgage and utility payments, and more than 4,500 gallons of gas.
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