In 2000, young female college graduates earned 92 cents for every dollar that their male counterparts earned. In 2017, young female graduates are paid 86 cents for every dollar that males are paid. That is not progress.
According to its report on the class of 2017, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) said that male graduates straight out of college are paid an average of $20.87 an hour early in their careers. Women are paid an average hourly wage of $17.88, or $2.99 an hour less than men.
Comparing earnings in 2017 to earnings in 2000, EPI noted:
Young male college graduates earn 5.4 percent more than young male college graduates in 2000, while young female college graduates earn 2.2 percent less than young female college graduates in 2000. These gender wage discrepancies are primarily driven by faster wage growth for top-earning men than for top-earning women, which drives up the average male wage.
EPI proposes 11 policy changes that will raise wages for most working people, noting four that will disproportionately raise pay for women:
Raising the minimum wage. Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage in 2015 was 25% below the minimum wage in 1968. Because women hold so many low-wage jobs, raising the minimum wage will generate a bigger boost for working women.
Eliminating the tipped minimum wage. This is related to raising the minimum wage and benefits women workers in the same way.
Preventing wage theft. In the 10 most populous states, approximately 17% of the low-wage workforce is underpaid by more than $8 billion annually. If the percentages are extrapolated through the country, these workers are being underpaid by over $15 billion. Again this works disproportionately against young workers, women, minorities and immigrants.
Strengthening collective bargaining rights. The decline in union membership is the “single largest factor suppressing wage growth for middle-wage workers over the last few decades,” according to EPI. The once-positive effect of unions on non-union workers has been all but eliminated over the years and contributed about one-fifth of wage inequality among women between 1972 and 2007.
A rising tide of wages will lift all boats, according to EPI, with women’s pay rising at a faster rate than men’s. And that’s a good thing.