On Equal Pay Day, a 'Particularly Strange' Finding

Gender wage gap continues to narrow, but it's seen a big slowdown over past 2 decades
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 14, 2023 10:35 AM CDT
'Happy' Equal Pay Day? Not Quite Yet
We've still got a ways to go.   (Getty Images/kzenon)

Tuesday is Equal Pay Day in the US, a shifting annual marker that documents the gender pay gap by indicating how far into the new year women have to work to catch up to what their male counterparts made the previous year. The good news is that, even as recently as 2005, this "holiday" stretched as far as April 19, meaning there's been some shrinking of that space, per CNN Business. The bad news, the outlet notes, is that "Equal Pay Day is even still a thing in 2023," with pay equity remaining elusive, and a slowdown of gains made.

The Pew Research Center reports that in 2022, women made 82 cents for every buck made by men. That isn't much more than the 80 cents earned 20 years earlier, and a sharp contrast to the boost seen in the two decades before that: In 1982, women were earning only 65 cents for every dollar pocketed by men. NPR notes this slowdown is "particularly strange," considering more women graduate not only from college than men, but also from law school, while about half of medical school grads are women. Pew reports that women start off their careers closer to wage parity with men, but the gap grows as they age, with parenthood playing a role in women's and men's roles in the labor force.

Cornell economist Francine Blau tells NPR that women having to provide child care is a significant factor, leading to them taking more flexible jobs that pay less, or working fewer hours. But even if you account for all of that, Blau says, women still make about 8% less than men. "It's what we call the 'unexplained pay gap,'" she says. "Or, you could just call it discrimination." The discrepancy exists even in occupations where women make up more of the workforce, except for one job, per the Institute for Women's Policy Research: teaching assistant.

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CNN notes that breaking the demographics down further shows how certain groups are in even worse straits. Although March 14 is Equal Pay Day for women overall, that day would fall on April 5 if comparing the pay of Asian or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women to that of white men; on July 27 for Black women (who earn just 65 cents per every dollar men earn); on Oct. 5 for Latina women (60 cents per dollar); and on Nov. 30, almost a whole year later, for Native American and Indigenous women. (More equal pay stories.)

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