American Women Make About Half of What Men Do, According to New Study

A new study says working women earn 49 cents for every dollar earned by a man, a claim that challenges most research that says women earn 80% of what men are paid on average across all industries.

The report was produced by The Institute for Women’s Policy Research and authored by Stephen J. Rose and Heidi Hartmann. The authors examined earnings over a 15-year period between 2001 and 2015 and concluded that women are penalized for taking time away from the labor force.

When measured by total earnings across the 15-year period for all employees who worked in at least one year, women workers’ earnings were 49% — less than half — of men’s earnings, a wage gap of 51% in 2015.

The study’s figures are also different from others because they are calculated with the inclusion of what women lose in pay when they take a year off from work. Pay for women who took at least a year off between 2001 and 2015 was 39% lower than for those who worked all 15 of those years, the study says.

The report found that among women workers in the study, 43% went one year without earnings, compared with 23% of men. This indicates missing work for a year is a more common occurrence among women than men.

The study acknowledges some progress over the latest 15-year period the report examined in the narrowing of gender pay gaps in terms of years of work, wages per hour, and working hours per year. In the most recent 15-year period ending in 2015, 57% of women had earnings in all 15 years, up from first 28% in the first 15-year period measured by the study (1968-1982). During that time frame, the long-term earnings gap was 81%.

The IWPR study credits gains in women’s educational attainment, enforcement of equal opportunity statutes, and changes in culture as reasons for the improvement in women’s pay. Women also benefited by the increase in “high-end service” employment in office work, education, and health care.

“Strengthening women’s labor force participation would increase their long-term and lifetime earnings,” the report said. “Since many women take time away from paid work to provide unpaid family care, making it easier for these women to juggle work and family responsibilities, and for men to take on a greater share of these responsibilities, would go a long way to further narrowing all the long-term gender gaps.”

The authors advocate for more training an education for women to enter the workforce and assume occupations usually held by men. They also see the need for more paid family leave for men and women, and public subsidies for child care while parents work.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research is an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.

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