The U.S. Gender Wage Gap: A Statistical Analysis

Gender inequality isn't just about fairness— it has direct economic and social costs.

January 30, 2020

Gender inequality is a global issue that has a tremendous impact on society as a whole. When women and men do not have equal opportunities and resources to take part in decision-making, there are direct economic and social costs. Gender disparity can affect every aspect of life, whether it’s in the form of differences in wages or an unequal labor force, and can stymie social justice.

In this data analysis, we will examine the gender wage gap as it exists in the United States, taking a closer look into Healthcare Services, Finance, Banking, and Insurance, Legal Occupations, Education, and Computer and Mathematical Professions. This analysis will demonstrate that gender pay disparity is a key indicator of economic progress and social justice.

Gender Wage Disparity in the United States 

The data in the table, “Gender Wage Disparity in the United States,” demonstrates that compared to men, especially white men, women in the United States make much less on the dollar for doing the same job. In general, men’s minimum earnings are about $3,000 more than women’s, and men’s maximum earnings are about $50,000 more than women’s. Overall, women in the U.S in these six fields make an mean of $58,864 while men make an mean of $80,628, therefore the general difference between the mean earnings of men and women is approximately $21,000.

The earnings ratio in the data table above also indicates how much women earn in comparison to men. For example, in the Computer and Mathematical occupations, women earn 84.90% of the amount men earn. Between men and women in all the featured occupations, the earnings ratios range from 54.70% to 94.10% with a mean of 78.08% which means for every 100 cents earned by men, women only earn as low as 54.70 cents and as high as 94.10. 

According to the graph, “Pay Gap Between Men and Women in the U.S.”, all the red bars, which indicate men’s earnings, are taller than the blue bars, which indicate women’s earnings. It is interesting to note that the pay gap between men and women is higher in healthcare diagnosing and treating occupations than in healthcare support occupations, suggesting that the pay gap increases as men’s potential salary increases. The same can be said of the legal and business and financial occupations. In general, it can be interpreted from the graph that the more men can earn, the less women can earn.

If you look at the graph, “Income gap between men and women over a lifetime,” the orange line represents the men’s income, and the green line represents the women’s income in the U.S. During the early stages of working career, although women still earn less than men, the wage gap is not very big. However, as they get older and older, the gap becomes bigger and bigger. The gap begins to widen when men and women turn approximately 40 years old. From then on until they retire, men earn over $20,000 more than women earn.

In the U.S., the gender pay gap is a nationwide issue. It exists in each and every state, though the gap is much wider in some states than in others. Among all U.S. states, Louisiana has the widest gap; for every one dollar men earn, women earn only 69 cents. California has the smallest gap with women earning 89 cents for every dollar men earn.

There are a lot of factors that contribute to gender wage disparity but some of the main reasons are gender and racial discrimination, workplace harassment, and job segregation. Lots of time, social expectations also get in the way as women are expected to take care of their children and their family, and there aren’t sufficient parental leave policies in the workplace to support women in both their family obligations and their jobs.

In fact, a study conducted by Sari Pekkala Kerr, a Wellesley College Economist, shows that the major factor that contributes to women earning less than men is marriage and motherhood. Upon graduation from college, men and women earn roughly the same amount, with a difference of 10%, for about ten years. However, around 20 years later, this gap widens significantly. Kerr said that women who are “married with children” earn only 55 cents for every dollar men earn. And even single women earn 25% less than single men at the age of 45. 

They would rather hire men in their 20s or 30s than women of childbearing age.”

Furthermore, 40% of managers or employers admit they avoid hiring young women because they do not want to deal with maternity leave. Among the 500 managers surveyed by law firm Slater & Gordon, approximately 40% of them said that they would rather hire men in their 20s or 30s than women of childbearing age. This is pregnancy discrimination in the workplace and is against the law. Yet, it is hard for a woman to find proof that she was not hired because of this. 

At the end of the day, the gender pay gap is much more than a numbers issue—it’s an ethical and moral one. Gender inequality actively discourages women from seeking work and negatively impacts their overall confidence. A recent study by Columbia University even found that it contributes to women’s markedly higher rates of depression and anxiety in the U.S.

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Kerr, Sari Pekkala. “Marriage and Motherhood Cited as Major Causes of Gender Pay Gap in Two New Studies Co-Authored by Wellesley College Economist.” Wellesley College, 22 May 2017, Accessed 4 Dec. 2019.

Kiersz, Andy, et al. “7 charts that show the glaring gap between men and women’s salaries in the US.” Business Insider, 26 Aug. 2019, Accessed 3 Dec. 2019.

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