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The gender pay gap, also called the gender wage gap, is the difference between what working women and men are paid. In 2020, this gap revealed women earned 82 cents for every dollar a man earned, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The gap has tangible impacts on women's earnings, with working women in the United States losing over $500 billion a year due to the gap, data from the American Association of University Women reports. On average, a woman will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars to this wage discrepancy in her lifetime.
Here's a look into the gender pay gap and a state-by-state dive into how much women make for every dollar a man makes in the U.S.
What Is the Gender Pay Gap?
The gender pay gap is often expressed as women's earnings as a percentage of men's earnings, or as a cents-on-the-dollar difference. It's also sometimes expressed as the number of extra days women would have to work to earn the same amount as men. In 2020, women would have had to work 42 extra days to make the same amount men did, according to the Pew Research Center.
While some of the pay gap can be attributed to measurable differences in occupation, the wage gap is present in nearly every field, according to the Department of Labor. What's more, the Economic Policy Institute reports women are paid less than men at every level of education. Women with bachelor's degrees working full time earn 26% less than men with the same level of education.
Over time, the wage gap has narrowed to an extent as women have increased their education level and gained ground in professions previously dominated by men, such as in STEM. But women are still over-represented in lower-paying jobs, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Motherhood also impacts women's earnings and contributes to the overall gender pay gap. This so-called "motherhood penalty" impacts pregnant women and mothers in the workforce, with each child deeping the gap in pay.
All of these factors put together add up to less earnings for women.
Race Can Exacerbate the Pay Gap
The gender pay gap varies by race and ethnicity and is most severe for women of color. According to the National Partnership for Women & Families:
- Latina women are paid 57 cents for every dollar white, non-Hispanic men are paid.
- Native American women make 60 cents for every dollar white, non-Hispanic men are paid.
- Black women make 64 cents for every dollar white, non-Hispanic men are paid.
- White, non-Hispanic women make 79 cents for every dollar white, non-Hispanic men are paid.
- Asian American and Pacific Islander women earned as little as 52 cents for every dollar white, non-Hispanic men were paid in 2019. Asian American women overall made 87 cents for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man was paid.
5 States That Are Closing the Gender Pay Gap
Differences in earnings can be due to a range of factors, such as variation in a state's economy and labor force.
Connecticut had the smallest pay gap of all states in 2020, with women earning 97 cents to men's dollar, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Utah had the widest pay gap, with women making 72.7 cents per dollar of men's earnings.
However, it's important to note that 2020 income data bears the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on labor and employment. Because job loss due to the pandemic disproportionately affected low-wage workers, employees who remained employed full time have skewed the data upward.
Here are five states where the effects of the gender wage gap were the least apparent as of 2020:
Connecticut has made major strides toward gender pay equality. Women made 97 cents for every dollar a man made in Connecticut in 2020.
And legislators in Connecticut are taking action to close the gap. In October 2021, Connecticut enacted a new law requiring employers to disclose salary ranges to job applicants and employees. Pay transparency laws have been shown to promote pay equality.
The median earnings for women employed full time were $1,166 per week, or $60,632 per year. The median men's earnings were $1,202 per week, or $62,504 per year. That's a difference of $36 a week, or $1,872 per year.
California represents 14.7% of the entire U.S. economy and has the highest gross domestic product of any state in the country. Sex-based pay discrimination has been banned for decades, and state lawmakers continue to make the effort to further shrink the pay gap.
In 2015, California legislators strengthened the state's Equal Pay Act to make it more difficult to pay women less for the same work, such as by requiring that people whose work is substantially similar are paid the same wage.
Overall, women in California still make only 87.6 cents for every dollar a man makes. Women in California earn a median of $993 per week, or $51,636 per year. Men in California earn a median of $1,133 per week, or $58,916 per year. That adds up to a difference of $140 a week, or $7,280 per year.
3. New Mexico
In New Mexico, where oil and gas, tourism and the federal government are the largest economic players, progress toward gender pay equity includes the passage of New Mexico's Fair Pay for Women Act in 2013, which made sex-based pay discrimination illegal in the state. The law makes it illegal for an employer to pay an employee less than an employee of another gender performing the same work.
Women in New Mexico earn 87 cents for every dollar a man makes overall. Women in New Mexico earn a median of $801 per week, or $41,652 per year. Men in New Mexico earn a median of $915 per week, or $47,580 per year. That's a difference of $114 a week, or $5,928 per year.
Texas' $1.9 trillion economy is the second largest in the United States, trailing only California. Texas also ranks No. 1 in the country for future growth, according to Forbes, based on forecasts for employment and income growth in the next five years. Overall, Texas ranks fourth in the country for entrepreneurial activity and houses 100 of the largest companies in the U.S.
The state of Texas has passed legislation prohibiting sex-based wage discrimination. Women still earn only 87 cents for every dollar a man makes in Texas. Full-time women workers in Texas earn a median of $875 per week, or $45,500 per year. Men in Texas earn a median of $1,006 per week, or $52,312 per year. That's a difference of $131 a week, or $6,812 per year.
In Wisconsin, where manufacturing, agriculture and health care make up most of the economy, employment laws explicitly prohibit sex-based wage discrimination.
Women in Wisconsin earn 86.5 cents for every dollar a man makes, with an average median pay of $885 per week, or $46,020 per year. That's compared with men's median pay of $1,023 per week, or $53,196 per year. That gap amounts to a difference of $138 a week, or $7,176 per year.
Progress Toward Equality
Although progress is being made toward pay equity, the gender pay gap remains, and women are still paid less than men in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. At the state level, women can advocate lawmakers for equal pay and transparency policies. At the company and organization level, women can advocate for initiatives like paid family leave, pay equity audits, bias training and salary transparency.
On an individual level, women can combat the wage gap by researching pay in their industry and occupation and negotiating salaries and raises more often.
Women should also be mindful of how their income may affect their financial life in other areas, such as their credit. While women and men have a nearly identical average FICO® Scores☉ , lenders also use your income to determine your eligibility for major loans, such as mortgages.
On top of increasing your income, taking steps to raise your credit score can help you qualify for credit. Experian Boost®ø is a free tool that gives you credit for the bills you already pay, such as utilities and streaming services. Consumers whose credit scores went up after using the service saw a 13-point score jump on average.
Methodology: Pay gap data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Highlights of Women's Earnings in 2020 release. The data provides estimates of median weekly earnings for men and women based on the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey.The U.S. Census Bureau conducts the survey monthly using a scientifically selected national sample of about 60,000 eligible households representing all 50 states and Washington, D.C.