Connecting state and local government leaders

When Each State Will Achieve Equal Pay

Fans stand behind a large sign for equal pay for the women's soccer team during an international friendly soccer match in April 2016.

Fans stand behind a large sign for equal pay for the women's soccer team during an international friendly soccer match in April 2016. Jessica Hill / AP Photo

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Women workers in some might not achieve wage equality until the 22nd century, new research suggests.

Women in Florida may be the first in the U.S. to achieve paycheck parity in 2038, while those in Wyoming may be among the last to close the wage gap, not getting there until 2153. According to new research released today by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), there will be 13 states where movement in the gender wage gap is so slow that a woman born in 2017 will not see equal pay during her working life.

Nationally, women averaged 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man in 2015. Julie Anderson, a senior research associate with IWPR, looked at Census data between 1959 and 2015 to track the differences in earnings between women and men who are employed full-time, year-round. Based on historical trends, the research paper predicts how long it will take for women in each state to earn as much as their male counterparts. The answer isn’t very optimistic—projections reveal just how lethargic change has been so far and how significant the variations are across state lines.

Map showing the projected year the wage gap will close by state (IWPR)

If the current pace is to continue, the paper argues, it will take another 42 years until the country as a whole closes the wage gap in 2059. In four states—North Dakota, Louisiana, Utah, and Wyoming—pay equality won’t be achieved until the 22nd century.

It’s important to note that the situation is far worse for women of color. If current trends continue, Anderson warns that black women will have to wait until 2124, while Hispanic women will not see pay equity for another 231 years—until 2248.

Among the states that are the closest to ending wage inequality, the reasons aren’t uniform. For example, in Florida and Nevada, it’s not necessarily due to robust policies that bolster equal pay. Rather, it’s because men are setting a fairly low bar for earnings. “Women in states like Florida and Nevada earn somewhere in the middle when compared to other states, but men in those states earn near the bottom in relation to overall men’s earnings,” says Anderson.

Projection is based on the ratio of women's to men's earnings among full-time, year-round workers aged 16 and older. (IWPR)

When it comes to other high-ranking states, like California and Maryland, we can see how current efforts will pay off in the future. These states, Anderson says, are working hard to pass policies like paid sick leave and medical leave that play a major role in keeping women in the workforce. California and Maryland are predicted to close the wage gap in 2043.

The predominant industries and occupations within a state can also explain differences in earnings. States ranked at the bottom—Wyoming, Louisiana, and North Dakota—all have a very large share of men working energy and construction jobs. “These industries pay high wages, and employ very few women,” says Anderson. However, in states that employ a large number of government workers, such as Washington, D.C., there’s generally more transparency around things like promotion and hiring practices, which helps bridge the gap and boost equal pay, she adds.

Could focusing on state-level data help us better understand what is causing wage gaps? Anderson thinks so. It paints a complicated picture, she says, but mapping “also points out different entry points for states to focus their efforts on if they want to address the problem.”

Krutika Pathi is an editorial fellow at CityLab, where this article was originally published.

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