State of the Facts
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 a job is full-time or not — and 22% of working women were part-time in 2020, compared to 12% of working men, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While total income is mostly salary and wages, it also includes Social Security, pensions, child support, interest and dividends, rent for landlords, 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.
That picture becomes more complicated when accounting for race and ethnicity. Women consistently report a lower income than men in the same racial and ethnic group, but the income discrepancies by race are larger than those by gender.
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 $9,000 and $1,800 more, respectively, than the average American man in 2019. Meanwhile, Black women made $6,300 less and Hispanic women fell short by $20,900.
There were also men who fell well below the male median. Hispanic men made less in 2019 than almost everyone — except for Hispanic women — with a median total income $12,000 less than that of 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 — Asian and non-Hispanic white women — experience the greatest disparities. The median income in 2019 for Asian women was about $27,000 less than Asian men. White, non-Hispanic women made $26,700 less than white men.
Black women made the most compared to men of the same racial and ethnic group, at $7,000 less than Black men, although the median income of Black men was $27,800 less in 2019 than that of white, non-Hispanic men.
The difference between genders decreases but does not disappear when focusing only on the wages and salaries of full-time workers — often referred to as the pay gap. Full-time working women earned a median of 82 cents on the dollar compared to the median weekly earnings of men in 2020, according to the BLS.
Direct comparisons between men and women in the same occupations also show women earning less than men, though the difference varies between professions. Legal occupations like lawyers, paralegals, and judges reported the greatest disparity between men and women, with women earning a median of 55 cents for each dollar paid to men in 2020. The discrepancy is smaller when looking only at lawyers, with women earning 72 cents on the dollar. But while 58% of workers in any legal occupation were women in 2020, only 43% of lawyers were.
Women who work as medical scientists earned 65 cents on the dollar, while women financial managers made 66 cents. In sales and related occupations, as well as personal financial advisor and loan officer roles, women earned 68 cents on the dollar.
There were four reported positions where women earned more than men. Women producers and directors — who made up 49% of the estimated 123,000 people in that profession last year — earned $1.06 on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. Women who were transit bus drivers, fast food and counter workers, or wholesale or retail buyers earned $1.02 on the dollar. They made up 39%, 63%, and 51% of workers in those professions, respectively.
The BLS data does not show how wages differ within individual companies. Part of the difference in wages by occupation may also relate to industry — for example, if women lawyers choose to work in the non-profit or government sector rather than at private for-profit firms.
Again, the median earnings of full-time workers show gender compounding larger racial and ethnic disparities, according to data from the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement. In 2020, Asian men working full time earned $73,000, the most of any group, followed by white, non-Hispanic men, Asian women, and white, non-Hispanic women. Black men and women both made less than white women — but more than Hispanic men and women.
The 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. The unemployment rate for women over 20 peaked at 15.5% in April 2020, compared to 13.1% for men in that age group, according to the BLS. The unemployment rate for women remained above that of men through September of last year. As of March, the unemployment rate was 5.8% for men and 5.7% for women. The unemployment rate for people over the age of 20 was 5% for white women, 7.3% for Hispanic women, and 8.7% for Black women. At a rate of 9.8%, Black men continued to face the highest unemployment of any group.
As of March, an estimated 3.9 million people had left the labor force since February of last year, 49% of whom were women. This was the first month since August 2020 where women did not account for most of the decline in the labor force compared to February 2020. In October of last year, women accounted for a high of 62% of people who had left the labor force. The unemployment rate does not capture these people, who exited the job market altogether and were no longer seeking work. With many schools online and daycares closed, childcare has been 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.
For more information on jobs during the recovery from COVID-19, visit the employment dashboard and the Impact and Recovery Hub.
Correction: An earlier version of this article compared seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for white and Black men and women 16 and older to unadjusted unemployment rates for Hispanic men and women 16 and older. The BLS does not give seasonally adjusted rates for Hispanic men and women in that age group. This has been corrected to reflect seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for white, Black, and Hispanic men and women 20 and older.
“Other office and administrative support workers” also shows women earning slightly more than men, at $1.05 on the dollar. This was excluded from the count of positions where women make more than men because it does not specify a unique role or an overarching occupation group. It refers to a miscellaneous selection of roles within the occupation group "Office and administrative support workers." That said, women made up 76% of workers categorized in this group.
Keep up with the latest data and most popular content.