Stark pay differences between men and women remain in this country. In 2010 women made on average only about 77 cents for every dollar men made. While this number is up from 58.8 cents per dollar earned by men in 1975, it remains a far cry from the point where women make equal pay for equal work. And while critics of the movement for pay equity often dismiss the gender pay gap as one due completely to occupational and lifestyle choices, a rigorous analysis of data by labor economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn found that over 40 percent of the pay gap cannot be explained by such differences, concluding that “there is evidence that…discrimination does still continue to exist.”
But the gender pay gap isn’t just an issue of fairness. It is also a question of economic empowerment, both for working women and for their families. In 2010 the median full-time working man took home $47,715 in earnings, while the median full-time working woman made only $36,931—77.4 percent of that amount, or $10,784 less.
Because of this gap women working full time are able to afford less education, housing, transportation, food, and health care for themselves and their families than their male counterparts. As a result women and female-headed households are more likely to be in poverty and less likely to have health insurance. The pay gap translates into a significant economic disadvantage for women and their families, especially when nearly two-thirds (63.9 percent) of women are now either the primary breadwinner or a co-breadwinner, bringing home at least 25 percent of their family’s income.
Examine the infographics below to see what women and their families could afford annually and over a 40-year career if the gender pay gap did not exist. What could you do with an extra $10,784 per year, or an extra $431,360 over 40 years?
Matt Separa is a Research Assistant at the Center for American Progress.