Nearly 25 million mothers with children under 18 are in the workforce, making up nearly 1 in 6 – or 16.1 percent – of all workers. And a record number of these mothers – about 3 in 4 mothers in the workforce (75.6 percent) – are working full time. As a result, families are increasingly relying on their earnings. In 2017, 41 percent of mothers were the sole or primary breadwinners in their families, while 23.2 percent of mothers were co-breadwinners. While women in the U.S. who work full time, year round are typically paid just 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts, the wage gap between mothers and fathers is even larger. Mothers working full time, year round outside the home are paid just 69 cents for every dollar paid to fathers, a gap that translates to a loss of $18,000 annually. The wage gap between mothers and fathers exists across race, state, and occupation, and compromises families’ economic security.
Mothers of every race are typically paid less than white, non-Hispanic fathers.
While overall, mothers are paid less than fathers, the wage gap is even wider for many mothers of color as compared to white, non-Hispanic fathers. Asian American and Pacific Islander mothers are paid 92 cents; white, non-Hispanic mothers are paid 72 cents; Black mothers are paid 54 cents; Native mothers are paid 48 cents; and Latina mothers are paid just 46 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic fathers.
Mothers experience a wage gap in every single state.
Nationwide, mothers are paid just 69 cents for every dollar paid to fathers. But the wage gap varies by state. In Vermont, where the wage gap between mothers and fathers is smallest, mothers are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to fathers, translating to a typical loss of about $10,500 annually. In Louisiana and Utah, where the gap is largest, mothers are paid just 59 cents and 61 cents respectively for every dollar paid to fathers. In these states, mothers typically lose more than $23,000 annually. Many mothers of color experience even wider gaps depending on their state. For example, in the District of Columbia, Black mothers lose about $85,000 and Latina mothers lose more than $98,000 annually compared to white, non-Hispanic fathers.
Mothers experience a wage gap across occupations.
In a wide variety of occupations – those that are well-paid and poorly paid, those that are female-dominated and those that are non-traditional for women – mothers working full time, year round are paid less than fathers.
Nearly 2 in 5 mothers (38.1 percent) are employed in one of ten occupations; in every one of those occupations, mothers are paid between 51 cents and 85 cents for every dollar paid to fathers. In addition, two of the common occupations for mothers –janitors, building cleaners, maids and housekeepers and cashiers and retail salespeople –typically pay mothers a low wage – less than $11.50 per hour. Of the top ten most common occupations for mothers, these two occupations are where mothers face the steepest wage gaps compared to fathers.
Lower wages can leave families below or dangerously close to the poverty line, particularly when mothers support children on their own. A single parent with two children needs to make $20,231 per year – about $9.72 per hour for someone working full time, year round – just to lift their family above the poverty line.
Indeed, nearly one in eight unmarried mothers who held full time jobs throughout 2017 were poor. Nearly six in ten poor children lived in families headed by women in 2017, and female-headed households with children were much more likely to be poor in 2017 (34 percent) than households headed by unmarried fathers (16 percent) or households headed by married couples (6 percent).
Meanwhile, fathers tend to be concentrated in occupations that are more highly paid. In the ten most common occupations for fathers, none typically pay fathers less than $14.42 per hour. And while there is overlap between the most common occupations for mothers and fathers, fathers are more likely than mothers to be in high paying occupations and mothers are more likely to be in lower paid occupations. For example, fathers are 3.5 times more likely than mothers to be a CEO or legislator. In contrast, mothers are 11 times more likely than fathers to be nursing, psychiatric, home health, and personal care aides. And, again, when fathers and mothers work in the same occupation, fathers are nearly always paid more; in nine out of ten most common occupations for fathers, mothers are typically paid between 63 and 86 cents for every dollar paid to fathers.
Families can’t afford for mothers to be shortchanged any longer. It’s time to close the gap.