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NATIONAL COMMITTEE ON PAY EQUITY: HISTORY & IMPACT

New Pay Equity Bill Introduced

The Pay Equity for All Act (H.R.6030), introduced by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC-At-Large) on Sept. 14, 2016, amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to prohibit employers from seeking or requiring previous wage information or salary history from job applicants.


Gender wage gap persists

The persistence of the gender wage gap is shown by data released by the Census Bureau on Sept. 12, 2018. In 2017, the median salaries for all full-time, year-round workers showed women still earning 80.5 cents for every dollar men earned, exactly the same gap as in 2016. The median salaries of all full-time, year-round workers showed women earning $41,977 compared to $52,146 for men in 2017.

The wage gaps continue to be greater for women of color, whose wages dropped even more compared to those of white men between 2016 and 2017. African American women earned just 61 cents and Hispanic women earned just 53 cents for every dollar white men earned, compared to 63 and 54 cents respectively in 2016. Asian American women earned 85 cents and white women 77 cents for every dollar white men earned, compared to 87 and 79 cents respectively in 2016. American Indian and Alaska Native women earned 58 cents and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander women made 62 cents for every dollar white men earned in 2017.

2016 guide to the gender wage gap shows the gap increasing as women earn more. The loss in lifetime earnings is $530,000 for the average woman and $800,000 for college-educated women. About 30 percent of the narrowing of the wage gap since 1979 was caused by the decline in men’s wages.

The National Committee on Pay Equity's The Wage Gap Over Time shows how little the wage gap has changed in this century.

If we didn't have a wage gap, we wouldn't need this coupon!

"What
Gender Wage Gap?"

The gender wage gap figure used by the National Committee on Pay Equity has been coming under fire as being politically motivated, at best, and downright inaccurate, at worst.  

NCPE’s wage gap figure, showing that women earn 79.6 cents for every dollar men earn, is based on the most recent Census data of the median salaries of all full-time, year-round workers in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), using a different data set and calculating the wage gap based on weekly salaries, shows women earning 82 cents for every dollar men earn. And a multitude of reports and articles have sliced and diced pay data—by occupation, locality, age—to show a variety of gender wage gaps.

The Census data is used by NCPE because it includes bonuses, not included in the BLS data, and its data has been available for a longer period of time than the BLS data. (See http://www.pay-equity.org/info-time.html for gender wage gap figures since 1960.)  

When The Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler criticized the Census figure on April 9, 2014, he was quickly rebutted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). IWPR has updated its talking points on the gender wage gap, an important statement that validates the 80 cent figure.

NCPE’s gender wage gap figure is an aggregate. It does not show men and women doing the same work or in the same jobs. But it does show changes over time, with progress in narrowing the gap in the 1990s and little change in this century. In The Status of Women in the States: 2015--Employment and Earnings the IWPR projects that if current trends continue, the wage gap will remain until 2058 and won’t close until the next century in some states.

See five myths about America’s gender wage gap based on the report The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in the United States from the McKinsey Global Institute.

Women of Color and the Gender Wage Gap The prospects for closing the gender wage gap for women of color is dim, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.   

A 2016 briefing paper If Current Trends Continue, Hispanic Women Will Wait 232 Years for Equal Pay; Black Women Will Wait 108 Years from IWPR finds that, if current trends continue, Hispanic women will wait 232 years for equal pay. The exceptionally slow pace of progress for Hispanic women is nearly two centuries behind when white women should expect to see equal pay with white men (2056). African American women are not projected see equal pay until 2124. Previous IWPR analysis found that women overall will not see equal pay until 2059. 

IWPR analyzed earnings growth over the last decade and found that progress for Hispanic women has moved backward: between 2004 and 2014, Hispanic women’s real median annual earnings for full-time, year-round work declined by 4.5 percent—nearly three times as much as women’s earnings overall (1.6 percent): Hispanic Women Are Among Those Women Who Saw the Largest Declines in Wages over the Last Decade. These trends varied widely by state, with only four states—California, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming—and the District of Columbia seeing wage increases among Hispanic women.

A 2016 report from the Economic Policy Institute, Black-white wage gaps expand with rising wage inequality, also found rising wage gaps between African American and white workers.

Wage Gap Research 

Studies that examine the prevailing gender wage gap find underlying social attitudes and no easy fixes:

$ In “The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends, and Explanations,” January 2016, Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn found that the largest factor in the persistent wage gap is the dearth of women in specific jobs and industries, but they also found that “Current research continues to find evidence of a motherhood penalty for women and of a marriage premium for men.” The researchers note that discrimination, too, can play a role. When it comes to hiring and promotions, concerns that women will (or should) spend more time away from the office, or will somehow underperform can create a labor market in which it’s difficult for women to achieve to the most advanced and highly paid positions.

$ The March 2016 report from Third Way, “A Dollar Short: What’s Holding Women Back from Equal Pay?” examines the pay gap through hourly wages, age differences, occupational categories, and evidence of lingering bias, and shows that women’s work is not valued as highly as men’s. The bottom line: “Achieving gender pay parity will require both determination and creativity among policymakers, employers, workers, and educators alike.”

$ See New York Times, March 18, 2016 for an overall view of recent research.

 

Equal Pay in 2059
Last year the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimated, based on research, that women wouldn’t receive equal pay until 2058. Based on the earnings figures released by the Census Bureau on Sept. 16, 2015, that date has been extended a year. IWPR now estimates that women will not receive equal pay until 2059.

NCPE is registered with Amazon Smile, so online shopping through this Web site provides us with financial support. Just visit smile.amazon.com and select National Committee on Pay Equity as the 501(c)(3) organization you wish to support, and NCPE will receive 0.5 percent of the price of eligible purchases. For more information, see complete program details.

As Federal Legislation Stalls, Action in the States

While action on federal equal pay/pay equity laws has stalled in Congress, activity has blossomed in the states, with more than 30 having recently introduced, or expected to introduce soon, such legislation.

The current model is the California Fair Pay Act, which took effect Jan. 1, 2016, and strengthens the state’s existing equal pay laws by eliminating loopholes that prevent effective enforcement and by empowering employees to discuss their pay without fear of retaliation. The California Fair Pay Act:

  • Ensures that employees performing substantially equivalent work are paid fairly by requiring equal pay for “substantially similar” work and eliminating the outdated “same establishment” requirement
  • Clarifies the employee’s and employer’s burdens of proof under the California Equal Pay Act
  • Prevents reliance on irrelevant and ill-defined “factors other than sex” to justify unfair pay differentials by replacing the “bona fide factor other than sex” catch-all defense with more specific affirmative defenses
  • Ensures that any legitimate, non-sex related factor(s) relied upon are applied reasonably and account for the entire pay differential
  • Discourages pay secrecy by explicitly prohibiting retaliation or discrimination against employees who disclose, discuss, or inquire about their own or co-workers’ wages for the purpose of enforcing their rights under the California Equal Pay Act.

The AAUW tracks state activity and posts state laws that are passed here, with further information about state equal pay laws here.

 
Updated September 18, 2018          National Committee on Pay Equity