September 19, 2019 | 49° F

Study finds wage gap is decreasing in size

Photo by Susmita Paruchuri |

Women made 62 percent of what men did in 1979, but over the past three decades this disparity has decreased. As of 2014, they make 83 percent of what men do.

Though the wage gap still exists, significant progress has been made toward equal pay for both genders, said Judith Gerson, an associate professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies.

Women in higher positions earn more than their counterparts in lower-ranking positions, said Bruce Bergman, labor economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Over time we have seen increases in the educational attainment of women, which has helped women’s earnings advance significantly,” he said.

In 1979, full-time working women earned 62 percent of what men earned nationally, he said. This number increased to 83 percent by 2014.

Likewise, white women’s inflation-adjusted earnings rose by 31 percent, he said, and white men’s earnings, adjusted for inflation, have been essentially flat.

"Our data allows people to see what is happening in the broader economy,” he said. “So if nothing else, this information increases awareness about another piece of the labor market picture."

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not control the data on women’s earnings for many factors that could be significant in explaining differences, such as work experience, he said.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics serves as a snapshot of the New Jersey labor force and earnings by gender, he said.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not distinguish between starting salaries and the salaries of experienced workers, he said. Also, the Bureau does not have wage data available by industry or occupation and does not have numbers on bonuses for women versus men, Bergman said.

“Given the limitations of the survey, earnings have risen compared to the earlier years of this series,” he said. “But a gap still exists between women’s and men’s earnings, as we see nationally, as well."

Yana van der Meulen Rodgers, a professor in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, explained that part of the pay differential between men and women is due to different occupational distributions that women hold relative to men.

“Men are still relatively more concentrated in higher-paying occupations, but the difference has been narrowing over time as women break through the glass ceiling and enter well-paying, non-traditional occupations,” Rodgers said.

When male and female employees with similar experience working similar jobs are compared, the wage gap shrinks to 2.7 percent.

The penalty can range from pay discrimination, or the channeling of women into lower-paying career tracks that offer greater flexibility, she said. Women's time away from the labor market to raise children can also contribute to the gap.

“Both women and men can advocate for labor market policies at the state and national levels that promote more equitable pay, such as the Paycheck Fairness Act,” she said.

Women can have their voice heard and try to make an impact by taking training workshops to learn how to bargain more effectively for higher starting salaries during the hiring process, she said.

“Sometimes women are not even aware that they could be asking for more,” Rodgers said.

According to the New York Times, women generally get lower prices for the items they sell on eBay compared to men, even when the buyers do not know the gender of the sellers.

“Every person deserves to be paid fairly for his or her work and to have meaningful employment,” she said. “Within the past decades, the gender pay gap has shrunk by a large amount over time and women have made huge inroads in gaining employment in traditionally-male occupations."


Jessica Herring is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies and minoring in English. She can be found on Twitter @Jesslindsey93.

Jessica Herring

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