US Gender Pay Gap Not Closing, Census Data Shows

US Gender Pay Gap Not Closing, Census Data Shows

The US made no progress toward closing the gender pay gap between 2016 and 2017, with the ratio between women’s and men’s average earnings stalling at 80.5 cents to the dollar and the gaps between women of color and white men actually widening, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported last week:

If current trends continue, women will not receive equal pay until 2059, according to a related IWPR analysis of trends in earnings since 1960. This projection for equal pay remains unchanged for the last two years, indicating that the rate of progress has stalled.

Women of all major racial and ethnic groups saw the wage gap with White men widen in 2017, with especially large gaps facing Black and Hispanic women. Hispanic women made just 53 cents for every dollar earned by a White man (down from 54.4 cents in 2016) and Black women made just 60.8 cents (down from 62.5 cents in 2016). At $32,002 per year of full-time work, median earnings for Hispanic women are below the qualifying income threshold for eligibility for food stamps for a family of four.

“Closing the wage gap is not a zero-sum game—gains for one gender do not require losses for the other,” the IWPR points out in a fact sheet on the pay gap. While the gender gap has narrowed over the past several decades, wage stagnation in the US is an ongoing concern for men and women alike:

For the gender wage gap to close, women’s real wages must rise faster than men’s, and as the economy becomes more productive, one would expect real wages to rise for both men and women. Yet … since 1975 real annual earnings for men have remained virtually unchanged, and are lower in 2017 than they were in 1975, while women’s real earnings have increased across the same time period (but are also only marginally higher than they were a decade ago, in 2007). Over the same period, women’s earnings have become increasingly important to family incomes.

The Census Bureau reported last week that median US household income had reached $61,400 in 2017, a 1.8 percent increase over 2016. That means incomes are back to pre-recession levels, but last year’s growth rate was lower than in the prior two years. In its report last year, the Census calculated a 3.2 percent increase in household incomes between 2015 and 2016 and registered a 1.1 percent improvement in the female-to-male earnings ratio, from 0.796 to 0.805.

Gender gaps are also persisting and even widening on a global scale: The World Economic Forum warned in 2016 that the economic disparity between men and women worldwide was getting worse. Last year, the WEF echoed that warning, noting that at the current rate of progress, the global gender gap would take another century to close.

The gender pay gap is a measure of how the overall earnings of women compare to those of men, not pay inequality between men and women performing the same work (though gaps exist there as well). Closing the broader gender pay gap is a societal challenge that employers can’t easily fix, but gender pay equity within roles is achievable—and this problem will never be cheaper to tackle than it is today. (Gartner Total Rewards Leadership Council members can read our landmark 2017 study on pay equity and how to achieve it.)