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Women Lose $500 Billion Annually Thanks to Gender Wage Gap

Kanya D’Almeida

If women had received equal pay in the year 2015, they could have secured 83 more weeks of food for themselves and their families, 11 additional months’ worth of rent, or nine more years of birth control.

The gender wage gap is widest for Black and Latina women, who earn 60 cents and 55 cents, respectively, for each dollar paid to white men, according to new data from the National Partnership for Women and Families released ahead of Equal Pay Day.

Based on an analysis of U.S. Census data, the national survey found that women who are employed full time earn, on average, 79 cents to every dollar paid to their male counterparts, amounting to an annual pay gap of roughly $10,762.

This means that every year, women in the workforce are “losing” nearly $500 billion to unfair payment practices that persist in every state and 98 percent of the country’s 435 congressional districts. Louisiana ranked highest on the index, with a gender wage gap of 35 cents, while the District of Columbia had the lowest gap, with women losing about 10 cents to each dollar paid to a man.

If women had received equal pay in the year 2015, they could have secured 83 more weeks of food for themselves and their families, 11 additional months’ worth of rent, or nine more years of birth control, according to the survey.

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This year, Equal Pay Day falls on April 12, representing how far into 2016 women must work before they catch up with their male counterparts’ 2015 earningswomen have to work for nearly 16 months to make what men earn in 12 months. Researchers at the National Partnership warn that, absent swift policy changes, wage parity will not be achieved until 2059.

As various studies have shown, the gap is much worse for women of color than it is for white women, with far-reaching impacts.

A February study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found, for instance, that unequal pay severely impacts Black and Latina women’s ability to settle student loan debt. AAUW data revealed that, between 2009 and 2012, 9 percent of Black women and 3 percent of Latina women who graduated in the 2007-2008 college year managed to pay off their loans, despite working full time. By comparison, 61 percent of Asian American women and 37 percent of white women paid their loans in the same period, while 44 percent of men who graduated in the same year cleared their debts.

Women of color are disproportionately represented in the low-wage economy, adding to the burden of the gender pay gap, as Rewire has reported. Black women, who comprise 6 percent of the workforce, make up 11 percent of workers in low-wage occupations, defined by the National Women’s Law Center as jobs that pay less than $10.50 per hour.

Latina women, meanwhile, constitute 15 percent of low-wage workers, representing double their share (7 percent) of the workforce.

The National Partnership contends that a few key federal policies would significantly shrink the pay gap. That includes the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would effectively upgrade the 1963 Equal Pay Act to make it easier for women to discuss their earnings and identify possible areas of wage discrimination; the Healthy Families Act and the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which would establish paid medical leave and guarantee workers paid sick days; and passage of the EACH Woman Act, to help close barriers to access to contraception and abortion care.

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