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Granite State Rumblings: Equal Pay Day

Today is equal pay day. The day typically comes in early April and represents how far into the current year an average female employee would have to work to earn what her male counterpart brought home in the last calendar year.

Equal Pay Day comes more than a half century after President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which aimed “to prohibit discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages by employers.” Despite that legislation and labor laws enacted since, the earnings gap between American men and women remains wide.

Danielle Paquette writes in the Washington Post Wonkblog that closing the gender wage gap could pull half of single working moms out of poverty. Here is what she has to say:

More women than ever financially support their families. And with American women today earning 78.3 cents for every dollar a man makes, female workers who struggle economically often face a steeper climb to prosperity than their male counterparts.

Fixing this disparity could slash poverty in half for families with working women, according to a report published Wednesday from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the second installment in a series of seven.

The country’s number of working single mothers who live in poverty would drop from about 30 percent to 15 percent, researchers estimate, if they earned on average as much as comparably skilled men.

“A lot of attention is paid to the wage gap, but people aren’t necessarily thinking about it in terms of economic self-sufficiency or income inequality,” said Barbara Gault, executive director of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “Too often the gender picture is left out of that.”

Raises for women could drastically change the financial picture for a lot of families: About 40 percent of American households with children have female breadwinners, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data. That share was just 11 percent in 1960.

The national push for pay parity is fueling progress — slowly. Over the past 30 years, inflation-adjusted median earnings for women’s full-time, year-round work rose nationally from $30,138 to $39,157, the IWPR found. Men’s earnings dipped slightly from $50,096 to $50,033. Still, researchers project that we won’t see equal pay until 2058.

To measure the wage gap’s effect on economic struggle, the IWPR authors used American Community Survey data from 2013 to take a closer look at U.S. households below the poverty line. They found single women with children fared far worse than single men with kids.

The well-documented obstacles working parents face, of course, contribute to this problem and aren’t restricted to one gender: Child-care costs remain sky-high (and often exceed the cost of rent in a family budget), paid leave is lacking in jobs across the country, and schedule flexibility is notoriously rare in American workplaces.

But jobs more often held by female workers without college degrees (child care, retail, administrative work) tend to pay much less than roles dominated by men with the same level of education (plumbing, electricity, contract work).

A complex web of factors exacerbate the wage gap. Poor women continue to face disproportionate financial challenges.

To see how the marriage gap and gender gap combine to affect pay for Americans at a local level, the Voter Participation Center (VPC) analyzed pay in all 50 states. The results are startling. In New Hampshire unmarried women on average earn $43,300 a year, or just 75% of what men earn ($58,000) on average. In Maine, unmarried women earn 68% ($33,800) of what men earn ($50,000).

When Opportunity Stops Knocking

New Hampshire’s Kids and the American Dream

Join a statewide conversation to share ideas with neighbors, hear the latest research, and inform the presidential primary campaigns about the increasing barriers our state’s children face in achieving their dreams.

Participants will learn about what the gaps are between the opportunities children have today compared with those of previous generations in our state. Research from the Carsey School and other sources will help frame the discussion.

Register at: nhlistens.org/events.

This May, New Hampshire Listens–part of the Carsey School of Public Policy at UNH–is hosting twelve local conversations across the state that will engage residents in an important conversation about the increasing barriers our state’s children face in achieving their dreams. Research from the Carsey School and other sources will help frame the discussion. Attendees will learn about what the gaps are between the opportunities children have today compared with those of previous generations in our state.

Every Child Matters in NH will be there and we invite you to join us at a conversation in your area. This is your opportunity to weigh in with your experience and your perception of the opportunities, barriers, and prospects for future generations.

This work is the culmination of several events and opportunities. First, awareness has increased across the state and nation about the realities of what our children can achieve economically, compared to previous generations. Second, prior to the release of Robert Putnam’s book, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, cross partisan national leadership began reaching out to Putnam to bring his expertise and research to the issue of the country’s widening inequality gap. Finally the upcoming presidential primary season presents Granite State residents with a chance to voice their thoughts on these issues as our state becomes a first stop for those wishing to become president in 2016.

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About MaryLou Beaver

New Hampshire Campaign Director Every Child Matters Education Fund
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