Mar 2, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Gender pay gap barely budged in past two decades

Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

U.S. women have earned roughly 82% as much as men for the last 20 years, per recently published Pew Research Center analysis.

Why it matters: Although women continue to outpace men in educational attainment and more have taken on higher-paying jobs than in previous years, progress in narrowing the gender pay gap has stalled, especially compared to 20th-century strides.

By the numbers: While the roughly 82 cents to the dollar women made in 2022 signifies a huge leap from their 1982 average — 65 cents — it's only slightly more than the 80 cents they earned in 2002.

  • The gaps are more staggering for Black and Hispanic women, who earned 70 cents and 65 cents, respectively, to every dollar earned by a white man in 2022.
  • White women earned 83 cents and Asian women earned 93 cents, according to Pew.

No single reason accounts for the lack of progress made in the pay gap over the past two decades, the analysis said.

  • Greater numbers of women left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic. Later research showed that this exodus tended to affect women with less education, who were less likely to have jobs that allowed them to work remotely.
  • Women ages 25 to 44 with children were less likely to be part of the labor force than those without children, and those who did work tended to work fewer hours, affecting their earnings, though the effect was "modest overall," according to Pew.
  • Women also remain "overrepresented in lower-paying occupations relative to their share of the workforce," the analysis noted.
  • Other contributing factors including gender discrimination and stereotypes are "difficult to quantify," per Pew.

State of play: Half of respondents to a Pew survey in October attributed the gender pay gap to employers treating women differently. Women were much more likely than men to choose this option.

  • Smaller portions of respondents pointed to women making different choices about how to balance work and family and working in jobs that tended to pay less.

The bottom line: Pew noted that further progress in closing the gender pay gap could hinge on changing social and cultural attitudes and ensuring workplace flexibility to allow both men and women to better balance careers and family lives.

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