Corporate Social Responsibility
Equal Pay and the Wage Gap
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 requires equal pay for both men and women in jobs that entail equal skill, equal effort, equal responsibility, or similar working conditions. What has been the effect of the law after forty years? In 1963, women earned, on average, $0.589 for every $1 earned by men. By 2010, that difference – which we call the wage gap – has been closed to $0.812 to $1, or approximately 81 percent. Figure 2.10 "Median Annual Earnings by Gender and Race" provides some interesting numbers on the differences in annual earnings based not only on gender but on race, as well. Figure 2.11 "Median Annual Earnings by Level of Education" throws further light on the wage and unemployment gap when education is taken into consideration.
Figure 2.10 Median Annual Earnings by Gender and Race
What accounts for the difference, despite the mandate of federal law? For one thing, the jobs typically held by women tend to pay less than those typically held by men. In addition, men often have better job opportunities. For example, a man newly hired at the same time as a woman will often get a higher-paying assignment at the entry level. Coupled with the fact that the same sort of discrimination applies when it comes to training and promotions, women are usually relegated to a lifetime of lower earnings.
Figure 2.11 Median Annual Earnings by Level of Education
Education pays in higher earnings and lower unemployment rates.
Note: Data are 2010 annual averages for persons age 25 and over. Earnings are for full-time wage and salary workers.