Is the Gender Gap Keeping Millions of Women in Poverty?

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The Los Angeles Times reports that Tuesday is “Equal Pay Day” — “the day on the year’s calendar that marks the approximate extra time the average American woman would need to earn as much as the average man did in the prior year. According to the federal government, women make an average of 77 cents for every dollar that men earn.”

HEIDI HARTMANN, ARIANE HEGEWISCH, via Jennifer Clark, clark at iwpr.org,

Hartmann is president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, which just released the report “The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation 2013 and by Race and Ethnicity.” Hegewisch is study director for the group.

Among the group’s findings: “Twelve of the 20 most common occupations for women, compared with eight of the 20 most common occupations for men, have median weekly earnings that will leave a household of four at or near poverty. (The annual poverty threshold for a household of four in 2013 translated into weekly income of $453.) Forty percent of Hispanic women work in service and other occupations with poverty wages, as well as 32 percent of black women and 14 percent of white women.

The report also found: “Male-dominated occupations tend to pay more than female-dominated occupations at similar skill levels, particularly in jobs that require higher educational levels. For example, among high-skilled workers, males in ‘software developers, applications and systems software’ occupations, a male-dominated field, earn $1,737 per week on average (compared with $1,370 for women), while female workers in the ‘registered nurses’ occupation, a female-dominated field, earn $1,086 (compared with $1,236 for men). Thus, tackling occupational segregation is an important part of eliminating the gender wage gap.”

Hegewisch said today: “Once again, sales occupations, which have great disparities in commissions, are the ones with the highest wage gap. This is not about choice, but about inequality in access to the jobs with the highest earnings, and lack of transparency in who gets paid what.”

Hartmann added: “As the country wrestles with policies that ensure better wages and improved economic security for workers, it is important to consider remaining barriers to entry to higher-paid occupations, the overrepresentation of women in low-paid occupations, and how we value different types of work.”

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