By Dan Cook
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, named after Lilly Ledbetter, was aimed at closing the gender wage gap. (Photo: AP)
The gender wage gap isn’t getting any narrower and, as a result, more women are living in poverty than should be.
That’s the conclusion of a federal wage data crunch by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research designed to measure the gender wage gap and, more importantly, explore its ramifications.
The institute found that the yawning 77 percent gender wage gap hasn’t improved since 2002. This, despite years of discussions about it. When the institute went beyond the talking stage and began to extrapolate outcomes based on the gap, the upshot was that the gap sucks tens of billions of dollars out of the economy and traps many women and their families in poverty.
“The failure to pay women fairly results in the misallocation of human capital and contributes to women working at less productive pursuits than they otherwise would, thus holding back economic growth. For this reason, the estimate of the growth in GDP if women were paid equally with comparable men is very likely an underestimate,” the report stated.
The analysis was included in The Shriver Report's “A Woman's Nation Pushes Back From the Brink,” produced in partnership with the Center for American Progress.
The report estimates that equitable pay for men and women would generate additional family income of $447.6 billion, which the institute said is 2.9 percent of 2012 gross domestic product.
Among the findings from the analysis:
- Nearly 60 percent of women would earn more if working women were paid the same as men of the same age with similar education and hours of work.
- Providing equal pay to women would have a dramatic impact on their families. The poverty rate for all working women would be cut in half, falling to 3.9 percent from 8.1 percent. The very high poverty rate for working single mothers would fall by nearly half, from 28.7 percent to 15.0 percent, and two-thirds would receive a pay increase.
- For the 14.3 million single women in the workforce, equal pay would mean a very significant drop in poverty from 11 percent to 4.6 percent.
- The total increase in women’s earnings with pay equity represents more than 14 times what the federal and state governments spent in fiscal year 2012 on Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.
The institute posits that wage secrecy contributes greatly to the disparity “and undermines attempts to reduce the gender wage gap.” As the report notes, “The gender wage gap is at the same level — 77 percent — as it was in 2002. … The gender gap in the federal government — with high levels of pay transparency — is only 11 percent.”
“The Shriver Report emphasizes that women play a vital role in the American economy and in the financial security of families around the country,” said IWPR President Heidi Hartmann. “Paying women fairly for their work would go a long way in reducing poverty and giving the economy the jump start it needs.”