U.S. Gender Pay Gap Remains Stable And Little Changed From 20 Years Ago, Pew Research Finds

The gender pay gap in the U.S. remained relatively stable last year, with women earning an average of 82% of what men earned, according to the latest analysis of median hourly earnings for both full- and part-time workers conducted by the Pew Research Center.

In a report accompanying the finding published on Wednesday, economists at Pew noted that the gap in 2022 was little changed from the previous year but also from two decades ago, when women’s income was about 80% of men’s. In the 20-year period before that—from 1982 until 2002—the gap had narrowed significantly, by about 15 percentage points from 65%, spurred by cultural, social and legislative changes.

“There is no single explanation for why progress toward narrowing the pay gap has all but stalled in the 21st century,” noted Rakesh Kochhar, a senior researcher at Pew Research Center. “Women generally begin their careers closer to wage parity with men, but they lose ground as they age and progress through their work lives, a pattern that has remained consistent over time,” he added. “The pay gap persists even though women today are more likely than men to have graduated from college.”

The Pew data showed parenthood to be one of the dominant factors underpinning the enduring gender pay gap. Mothers aged between 25 and 44 are less likely to be in the labor force than women of the same age who do not have children at home, Pew found, and those women also tend to work fewer hours each week when they are employed.

“This can reduce the earnings of some mothers, although evidence suggests the effect is either modest overall or short-lived for many,” Kochhar explained. Interestingly, however, he pointed out that fathers, by contrast, are more likely to be in the labor force – and to work more hours each week – than men without children at home.

This, Kochhar added, is associated with an increase in the pay of fathers—a phenomenon sometimes referred to as the “fatherhood wage premium”—which in turn leads to the overall widening of the gender pay gap.

As has been the case since the 1980s, much of the increase in the gender pay gap occurs when workers reach their mid-thirties. Last year, women aged between 25 and 34 earned about 92% as much as their male counterparts, but that figure fell to 83% for women aged 35 to 54. For those aged 55 to 65, it dropped to 79%.

Kochhar explained that some of that trend can be attributed to children. In 2022, some 40% of employed women ages 25 to 34 had at least one child under the age of 18 at home.

Pew’s latest data also sheds light on the different experiences within gender groups, as a whole.

In 2022, Black women, for example, earned just 70% as much as White men; Hispanic women earned only 65% as much. The ratio for White women stood at 83%, roughly in line with the overall gender pay gap, but Asian women were closer to parity with White men, making 93% as much. White women also enjoyed the biggest jump in earnings relative to men between 1982 and 2022.

Kochhar explained that to some extent, the gender wage gap varies by race and ethnicity on account of differences in education, experience, types of occupation and other factors that drive the gender wage gap for women overall.

A significant body of research, however, also provides evidence of discrimination against certain demographic groups, including people—and especially women—of color but also disabled workers and those who identify as LGBTQ. “Discrimination in hiring may feed into differences in earnings by shutting out workers from opportunities,” said Kochhar.

Much research has also shown that women of color in the paid labor market were more likely than white employees to be laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/josiecox/2023/03/01/us-gender-pay-gap-remains-stable-and-little-changed-from-twenty-years-ago-pew-research-finds/