The following editorial appeard in Tuesday’s New York Times.
Tuesday was Equal Pay Day, the day selected each year by the National Committee on Pay Equity, a coalition of women’s, civil rights and labor groups, to draw attention to how much longer women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.
In 1963, when President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, a woman working full time year-round typically made 59 cents for every dollar paid to her male counterpart. By 2013, the latest year of available census data, it was 78 cents on the dollar. Another measure of the wage gap, computed by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, shows that, in 2014, the ratio of female-to-male weekly earnings was 82.5 percent.
While that seems like steady if painfully slow progress, closer inspection shows that progress in closing the gender pay gap has basically stalled over the past decade. The longer the gap persists, the less it can be explained away by factors other than discrimination.
For example, recent research by the Economic Policy Institute shows that men still outearn women at every rung of the income ladder. The higher up the ladder, the bigger the gap.
In 2014, women in the 95th percentile of female earners made 79 percent of wages for men at the 95th percentile, while women in the lowest 10th percentile made 91 cents for each $1 earned by their male counterparts.
At the high end, corporate norms are likely the biggest factor influencing pay scales, and, while policies differ from company to company, the result is that women are still paid much less than men. At the low end, the minimum wage is a big factor influencing pay scales, and, because that applies to everyone, there is less pay disparity at the bottom of the ladder. Yet, even at that, women in low-wage jobs are paid less than men in low-wage jobs.
The gender pay gap is also pronounced among college-educated workers. The higher the level of education, the bigger the gap. Men and women who have attended but did not graduate from college have the narrowest gap, with women making about 80 percent of what men make (or about $16 an hour on average for women versus $20 for men). Among those who have graduated from college, women’s pay is about 78 percent of men’s pay (or about $26 an hour on average for women; $33 for men) and among those with advanced degrees, women make about 74 percent of what men make (or about $33 an hour on average for women; $44 for men).
Men even make more than women in traditionally female occupations.
Recent research led by the University of California, San Francisco, shows that male registered nurses outearn female registered nurses by an average of $5,100 per year across most specialties and positions — an earnings gap that has not improved over the past 30 years.
Other research has shown that male schoolteachers tend to outearn female schoolteachers. In 2010, 2012 and 2014, congressional Republicans blocked consideration of the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill supported by President Barack Obama that would have extended pay-equity rules that apply to federal contractors to the entire American workforce, in addition to making needed updates to the Equal Pay Act.
Obstructionism has only made the problem worse, and an even more pressing one for the presidential candidates to address.