Yesterday, the U.S. Census Bureau released a new report that shows increased wages for middle class workers. Economists are eager to cite the latest study as signs of an economic recovery. However, it’s not much of an economic recovery for women, who still only earn 80 cents for every dollar a man makes. That number is up from 79 cents last year, which, as the bureau acknowledges, is not a significant change.
In 2015, the median income for a full-time working woman was $40,742. The median income for a full-time working man in 2015 was $51,212.
However, slowly but surely, the gap is getting smaller. Take poverty rates, for example. In 2014, 13.4% of men were living in poverty. In 2015, that number was reduced to 12.2%. Meanwhile, 16.1% of women were living in poverty in 2014. Compare that to 2015, where that number shrunk to 14.8%.
While it’s good that the overall poverty rates are decreasing, it’s a bitter sweet victory for women, who still have to deal with income disparities.
The Center for American Progress reports that 60% of the wage gap can be attributed to known factors. These known factors include occupational choice (27%), work experience (10%), and union status (4%). Another major factor is maternity leave, which is often unpaid. Women also generally take a longer leave of absence than men for childbirth.
But even with all of these known factors, that still leaves 40% of the wage gap unexplained. Gender advocates and economists theorize that some of it may be overt sexism, while some of it could also be women’s reluctance to negotiate for higher salaries.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has been one of the most outspoken politicians when it comes to the gender wage gap. “Over the last several decades women have entered the workforce in record numbers and made great strides in educational attainment,” Senator Warren stated at a wage gap event on Capitol Hill. “Nevertheless, when compared with men, women are still paid less, are more likely to hold low-wage jobs, and are more likely to live in poverty.”