Jobs & Unemployment
Since 1979, there have been more women with income than men, according to the Census Bureau. But those women continue to make less money, with an annual median income around $14,900 lower than that of the average man as of 2019. Earned income can depend on occupation type and time spent in the labor force, as well as whether or not a job is full-time — 23% of working women are part-time, compared to 12% of working men in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While income is mostly salary and wages, it also includes Social Security, pensions, child support, interest and dividends, cash from renting out properties, and other sources of money.
The income gap is smaller than it was in 1953, when the median inflation-adjusted income for women was about $17,300 less than it was for men. Rather than making 36 cents for every dollar made by men, women now bring in 66 cents.
That picture becomes more complicated when accounting for race and ethnicity. Asian women have reported a median income higher than the overall median for men since 2006, and white, non-Hispanic women have done so since 2017 — making $1.20 and $1.04 in 2019, respectively, for each dollar earned by the average American man. Meanwhile, Black women made 86 cents on the dollar and Hispanic women made 53 cents.
There were also men who fell well below the male median. Hispanic men made less in 2019 than almost everyone — except for Hispanic women — at 73 cents for each dollar made by the average man.
When comparing the gender income gap between men and women of the same race and ethnicity, women who make the most money — non-Hispanic white and Asian women — experience the greatest disparities. The median income in 2019 for white women was about $26,800 lower than the median income for white men, or the equivalent of 63 cents on the dollar. Asian women made 66 cents on the dollar compared to Asian men.
Black women made the most compared to men of the same racial and ethnic group, at 84 cents on the dollar, although the median income of Black men was $27,800 less in 2019 than that of white men.
Shift the focus from total income to the wages and salaries of full-time workers, and the overall gender gap closes slightly. Full-time working women earned a median of 82 cents on the dollar compared to the median weekly earnings of men in 2019, according to BLS.
More direct comparisons between men and women in the same occupations also show women earning less than men, though the difference varies between professions. Legal positions like lawyers, paralegals, and judges reported the greatest disparity between men and women, with women earning a median of 63 cents for each dollar paid to men in 2019. Women in sales positions earned 69 cents on the dollar.
Office and administrative support positions — like clerks, telephone operators, typists, and couriers — had the smallest wage gap among reported occupations, at 94 cents on the dollar. Women who were health aides and assistants earned 92 cents on the dollar.
The recent economic challenges brought on by the pandemic show how disparities extend beyond the pay gap, as many Americans reckon with job loss and an uncertain future. While the unemployment rate for men aged 20 or older fell to 7.4% in September, it remained at 7.7% for women, according to BLS. The unemployment rate was 6.9% for white women, 11% for Hispanic women, and 11.1% for Black women. At a rate of 12.6%, only Black men faced higher unemployment than Black and Hispanic women.
Between February and September, BLS also reported that an estimated 4.4 million people left the labor force, around 60% of whom were women. The unemployment rate does not capture these people, who have exited the job market altogether and are no longer seeking work. With many schools online and daycares closed, childcare is one additional pressure now making it difficult for Americans to remain in the workforce — while those who leave risk losing experience and stalling their careers.
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