Working Women Are Still Paid Less Than There Male Counterparts... by Jack Swint
According to the April 2012 National Women's Law Centers report, at the time of the Equal Pay Act’s passage in 1963, women working full time, year round were paid merely 59 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. Enforcement of the Equal Pay Act and related civil rights laws has helped to narrow the wage gap, but significant disparities remain and must be addressed.
Women have struggled to regain jobs in the recovery and continue to face high levels of long-term unemployment, even as their families rely on them more heavily for financial support. Wages overall are stagnating and the wage gap has barely budged over the last ten years. The gap particularly harms women in these economically difficult times, when women and families are especially financially vulnerable. Although Congress has taken initial steps to improve the laws that govern pay discrimination by passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, there is more that must be done to realize the decades-old promise of fair pay for equal work.
The Gender Wage Gap Persists in West Virginia
Although the gap between men and women’s wages has narrowed over the past five decades, the typical woman continues to be paid substantially less than the typical man. In 2010, the typical woman in West Virginia working full time, year round was paid only 70 cents to every dollar paid to a man working full time, year round. The wage gap is even more substantial for African American and Hispanic women. White, non-Hispanic women working full time, year round in West Virginia were paid only 69 cents to every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men working full time, year round. However, African-American women working full time, year round in West Virginia were paid only 64 cents and Hispanic women only 63 cents, to every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men who worked full time, year round.
The wage gap persists at all levels of education. In 2010, women in West Virginia with a high school diploma were paid only 60 cents to every dollar paid to men with a high school diploma. Comparing women and men in West Virginia with a bachelor’s degree the figure was 70 cents. In fact, the typical West Virginia woman who has received an associate’s degree or completes some college still isn’t paid as much as the typical West Virginia man who never graduated from high school. The wage gap exists across occupations. For example, West Virginia women working full time, year round in 2010 in management, business, and financial occupations were paid only 69 cents to every dollar paid to men in the same occupations. West Virginia women working full time, year round in sales and related occupations were paid only 64 cents to every dollar paid to men in the same occupations.
Fair Pay Is Important To West Virginia Women In This Struggling Economy
In the current economic crisis, many people are facing financial problems, stagnant wages, and unemployment. Women in West Virginia already have higher rates of economic insecurity than do men in West Virginia. In 2010, women working full time, year round typically had lower earnings than men ($29,651 compared to $42,146) and were more likely to live in poverty (17.8 percent of West Virginia women compared to 14.5 percent of men). As a result, women are particularly vulnerable to economic hardship in today’s struggling economy, when every dollar counts.
For example, high unemployment rates for men have fallen since the end of the recession, but two-and-a-half years into the recovery, women’s unemployment nationwide remained above its level at the end of the recession. The unemployment rate for women in West Virginia in 2011 was 6.9 percent, a 2.8 percentage point increase since the recession began in December 2007, and 32.1 percent of jobless women workers in West Virginia had been looking for work for 27 weeks or more. Women’s lower earnings contribute to the fact that women frequently have fewer savings to fall back on if they lose their jobs.
Nationally, the average weekly unemployment insurance benefit paid to women was $259, while the average benefit for men was about $310. Worse yet, women who lose their jobs are also less likely than men to receive unemployment insurance benefits at all. The economic crisis has affected all Americans, but has been particularly hard for women who are already in a more precarious economic position than men because of lower earnings and higher poverty rates. Women are more likely to rely on public benefits like Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), and housing assistance, services which many states have cut during the crisis.
About 14 percent of non-elderly adult West Virginia women and 42 percent of West Virginia children relied on Medicaid in 2010. In December 2011, the most recent month for which data are available, West Virginia provided food stamp benefits to more than 345,800 children and adults. For many low-wage workers, these programs provide crucial support to meet basic needs when wages aren’t enough. For example, for a fulltime year-round worker at West Virginia’s minimum wage, the annual pay is less than the poverty line for a family of three. In 2011, women made up about two-thirds of all workers that were paid minimum wage or less, totaling almost 2.4 million women 16 and older.
In West Virginia, the minimum wage was $7.25 per hour, equivalent to only about $14,500 a year for those working full time year round. Moreover, the minimum cash wage for tipped employees in West Virginia was just $5.80 per hour, equivalent to an annual base pay of only about $11,600 for those working full time, year round. Nationally, women make up almost two-thirds (64.0 percent) of workers in tipped occupations. Raising the minimum wage would help close the wage gap for West Virginia women.
Women Can’t Afford Unfair Pay Today
On the national level, American women who work full time, year round are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. This gap in earnings translates into $10,784 less per year in median earnings, leaving women and their families shortchanged. The wage gap is even more substantial when race and gender are considered together, with African-American women making only 62 cents, and Hispanic women only 54 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. Although enforcement of the Equal Pay Act as well as other civil rights laws has helped to narrow the wage gap over time, it is critical for women and their families that the significant pay disparities that remain are addressed.
Women’s lower wages hurt families who rely on their earnings for all or part of the family income. They also have a dramatic impact on women’s unemployment insurance benefits and retirement income. Lower earnings have a serious impact on the economic security of the over 6.3 million families headed by working single mothers. Working single mothers with children struggled to make ends meet in 2010. Over a quarter, or more than 1.6 million, of all such families were poor. An additional 2.1 million working single mother families were struggling to make ends meet, falling between 100 and 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), meaning that a majority (57.8 percent) of working single mother families lived under 200 percent of the FPL.
In 2010, the FPL for a single mother with two children was just $17,568. Most two-parent families depend on women’s wages, and so also suffer when women receive unfair pay. Nearly 1.8 million married couples with children relied exclusively on women’s earnings at some point in 2010, representing 7.4 percent of all married couples with children. In 2010, 13.9 million married couples with children relied on both parents’ earnings, representing 58.1 percent of all married couples with children. Women typically are paid less than men in the same occupation, whether that occupation pays high or low wages. Occupational segregation, the fact that the work women do is undervalued because it is women’s work also plays a role.
This is evidenced by the low wages of positions that are considered “pink collar” such as child care workers, family caregivers or servers. Almost two-thirds of workers earning the lowest wages are women who make the minimum wage or less. The federal minimum wage is just $7.25 per hour. The federal minimum cash wage for tipped employees is $2.13 per hour, less than one-third of the current federal minimum wage and unchanged in 20 years. Women make up almost two-thirds (64 percent) of workers in tipped occupations.
Unequal pay harms women and families even after women leave the jobs that pay them less. Unemployment insurance benefits provide temporary income support to workers who lose their jobs and serve as a crucial safety net for many families in a difficult economy. Since unemployment benefits are tied to past wages and women’s wages lag behind men’s wages, the wage gap is one reason jobless women workers receive less in unemployment benefits than men. Yet women have depended on these benefits more than ever in the recovery as women struggle to find work. Since the economic recovery began, the unemployment rate for men has dropped sharply, falling from 9.9 percent in June 2009 to 7.6 percent in March 2012.
The unemployment rate for women in March 2012 was 7.4 percent, just below the level it was in June 2009 at the recovery’s outset (7.6 percent). Between June 2009 and March 2012, women gained just 284,000 jobs while men gained over 2.0 million jobs, a difference of over 1.7 million jobs.
Women spend a substantial amount of their income on out-of-pocket health costs and health insurance premiums, and they are more likely than men to experience serious financial hardship as a result of medical bills. In 2010, the most recent year for which these statistics are available, one-third of working-age women spent 10 percent or more of their income on these expenses, and nearly one-third of women who had medical bill or debt problems were unable to pay for basic necessities like food, heat, or rent because of their medical bills. Closing the wage gap would provide essential help for women to pay for their medical expenses.
Preparing For Retirement
As a result of lower lifetime earnings, the average Social Security benefit for women 65 and older is about $12,100 per year, compared to $16,000 for men of the same age. In 2010, women 50 and older received only 56 cents for every dollar received by men in income from pensions and annuities. One study found that the typical woman worker near retirement with a defined contribution plan or individual retirement account had accumulated $34,000 in savings, while her male counterpart held $70,000 more than twice as much.
Median Earnings For Full-Time - Year-Round Workers By Sex And State
State Women’s Earnings Men’s Earnings M/W Earnings Ratio
DC $56,127 $61,381 91.4%
Vermont $35,891 $42,562 84.3%
California $41,302 $49,453 83.5%
Nevada $35,363 $42,689 82.8%
New York $41,570 $50,228 82.8%
Maryland $47,175 $57,017 82.7%
SD $30,876 $37,442 82.5%
Arizona $35,947 $43,594 82.5%
Mass $46,213 $56,959 81.1%
NC $33,188 $41,138 80.7%
Delaware $39,508 $49,013 80.6%
Florida $32,762 $40,731 80.4%
Rhode Island $40,532 $50,567 80.2%
Texas $33,689 $42,044 80.1%
Georgia $34,709 $43,344 80.1%
Hawaii $36,242 $45,443 79.8%
New Jersey $45,936 $57,978 79.2%
Colorado $39,638 $50,237 78.9%
Virginia $40,669 $51,597 78.8%
Maine $33,873 $43,029 78.7%
New Mexico $32,234 $41,023 78.6%
Iowa $33,186 $42,250 78.5%
Minnesota $39,289 $50,081 78.5%
NH $40,185 $51,530 78.0%
Wisconsin $35,490 $45,523 78.0%
Kentucky $31,628 $40,911 77.3%
Washington $40,246 $52,080 77.3%
Oregon $35,301 $45,685 77.3%
Pennsylvania $36,338 $47,038 77.3%
Ohio $35,284 $45,859 76.9%
Tennessee $31,854 $41,415 76.9%
Missouri $32,481 $42,282 76.8%
Connecticut $46,004 $60,168 76.5%
Illinois $38,638 $50,549 76.4%
Oklahoma $30,901 $40,458 76.4%
Nebraska $32,022 $41,929 76.4%
SC $31,518 $41,381 76.2%
Alaska $42,376 $56,643 74.8%
Mississippi $28,879 $38,613 74.8%
Alabama $31,321 $41,895 74.8%
Arkansas $29,148 $39,082 74.6%
Michigan $36,413 $48,953 74.4%
Idaho $30,403 $41,128 73.9%
Kansas $32,204 $43,773 73.6%
North Dakota $31,027 $42,214 73.5%
Montana $30,306 $41,339 73.3%
Indiana $32,221 $44,851 71.8%
West Virginia $29,651 $42,126 70.4%
Utah $32,163 $46,609 69.0%
Louisiana $30,600 $45,524 67.2%
Wyoming $32,426 $50,854 63.8%
End Of Story
West Virginia News
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