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Wage Gap by the Numbers

SOURCE: Leadership Conference on Civil Rights

Lilly Ledbetter speaks at the Rally for Pay Equity on July 17, 2008, in Washington, DC.

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The House will convene this week for the start of the 111th Congress, and two of the first pieces of legislation that it will discuss are the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. Women in the United States still earn only 78 cents on the dollar compared to men more than 45 years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, and these two bills are key to narrowing this gap.

Lilly Ledbetter helped shine new light on this issue when the Supreme Court denied her the $223,776 in additional wages she would have earned had she been a man in its 2007 decision, Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would correct this decision and ensure that future victims of pay discrimination can bring a lawsuit after any act of discriminatory pay. The Paycheck Fairness Act goes even further in strengthening equal pay laws through measures such as allowing victims of gender-based pay discrimination to fully recover damages, enabling the government to collect better data on wage discrimination and closing loopholes for employers defending against wage discrimination claims.

Women have made enormous advances toward economic equality, but gaps in income between men and women persist and only multiply over time, as the following numbers from Jessica Arons’ Center for American Progress Action Fund report, “Lifetime Losses: The Career Wage Gap” show. Passing these two bills is an important first step in addressing this problem.

$434,000: The median amount that a full-time female worker loses in wages over a 40-year period as a direct result of the gender pay gap, also known as the “career wage gap.”

78 cents: The amount that the average, full-time working woman makes for every $1 a man makes over a year.



Women with more education lose more income

Women at all education levels lose significant amounts of income due to the career wage gap, but women with the most education lose the most in earnings.

$713,000: The career wage gap for women with a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

$452,000: The career wage gap for women with some college education.

$392,000: The career wage gap for women with a high school education.

$270,000: The career wage gap for women with less than a high school education.



The wage gap widens as women get older and carries into retirement

Women workers earn less than men at every stage of life, but the wage gap widens as women get older and continues into retirement.

$4,572: The median annual pay gap between men and women ages 25 to 34.

$11,191: The median annual pay gap between men and women ages 35 to 44.

$13,519: The median annual pay gap between men and women ages 45 to 54.

$14,116: The median annual pay gap between men and women ages 55 to 64.

$8,000: The gap between the average retirement income that men and women receive annually. Two-thirds of this disparity can be attributed to the pay gap and occupational segregation.



Higher wages for women would bring greater prosperity to families

A report from the AFL-CIO and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that if women were paid fairly, family incomes would rise and poverty levels would fall.

17 percent: The additional amount that single mothers would take home in income if they were paid fairly. This would lead to a 50 percent reduction in poverty for these women, from 25.3 percent to 12.6 percent.

13.4 percent: The additional amount that single women would receive in income if they were paid fairly. This would lead to an 84 percent reduction in poverty for these women, from 6.3 percent to 1 percent.

6 percent: The additional amount that married women would earn if they were paid fairly. This would lead to a 62 percent reduction in poverty for these women, from 2.1 percent to 0.8 percent.

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