This Tuesday, April 8th is Equal Pay Day—the day women would have to work until (in addition to working all of 2013!) to make the same amount of money that men made in 2013. We all know that nationally, women working full time, year round typically make 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts, and the figure hasn’t budged in a decade. You should also know that the wage gap is even worse for women of color—African-American women working full time, year round make only 64 cents, and Hispanic women make only 54 cents, for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts.
The national wage gap figures grab headlines but what’s less talked about is the variability in the wage gap by state. For example, in D.C. women working full time, year round make 90 cents for every dollar paid to men (which puts DC at #1 in terms of women’s pay equity), but in Wyoming women make only 64 percent of what men make (#51).
States that have smaller wage gaps for women overall don’t necessarily have smaller wage gaps for all groups of women, and there are some stark differences for women of color. Again looking at our nation’s capital, African-American women in D.C. make only 56 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, which makes DC the 4th worst state in the country for African-American women’s pay equity. Similarly, in California women overall make 84 percent of what men make (putting California at #6 in women’s pay equity), but Hispanic women in California make only 44 percent of white, non-Hispanic men—making California the 2nd worst state in the country for Hispanic women’s pay equity.
Many factors contribute to the variance in how women are paid relative to men across states and how different groups of women are paid within states. These factors include the share of women and women of color who work in low-wage jobs, the minimum wage in each state, and the concentration of well-paying industries with gender segregation, among many others.
There are proposals at federal level to advance equal pay, including the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Fair Minimum Wage Act, and several women’s economic agendas, but some states aren’t waiting for Congress. New Hampshire passed its own equal pay law in March of this year, following in the footsteps of New Mexico and Vermont, both of which have passed laws in recent years advancing pay equity. More states, such as Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania, are also on the move. Let’s hope by Equal Pay Day 2015 we’ll see even more action in states and on the federal level!