Progress on Closing Gender Wage Gap Stalled

At the current rate, it will take 40 years to reach income parity
Woman in an income trap

For women hoping to one day earn the same as their male counterparts, the road to income equality remains steep. Efforts to end pay disparities between men and women appear to be yielding few tangible results, as the wage gap has barely changed over the last couple of years, newly released data shows.

The U.S. Census Bureau recently unveiled updated data that tracks wage earnings by gender, race and ethnicity. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), a research and policy group focused on issues impacting women, released a fact sheet using the new data to chart the changes in the gender wage gap from 1960 through 2018.

The ratio of women’s to men’s yearly earnings in 2018 was 81.6% for full-time year-round workers, meaning women could expect to make only 81.6% as much as their male counterparts in the same job. This was largely unchanged from the year before when the proportion was 81.7%.

In real-world dollars, women’s median full-time annual earnings in 2018 were $45,097, and men saw median earnings of $55,291. While women’s earnings increased 3.3% between 2017 and 2018, men’s earnings rose, slightly more, by 3.4% during that period. (Notably, the small narrowing of the wage gap came as White men’s average incomes declined marginally, even though the overall pay rate for men rose.)

In tracking the change in earnings over the years, the Institute was able to project how long it might take for women to achieve equal pay with men. At the current rate of progress, women would have a long time to wait, as they would be trailing men in salary until the year 2059.

While women in general tend to make less than their male counterparts, women of color face an even larger wage gap than White women. Hispanic women earned just 54.5% of the earnings of their White male counterparts in 2018, while Black women earned 61.8%. In comparison, White women earned 78.6% of what White men earned in 2018. Asian women were less affected by the wage gap, earning 90.2% of what their White male counterparts made.

The data also showed that earnings increases between 2017 and 2018 differed starkly among women of varying racial and ethnic groups.

  • White women saw their median annual earnings increase by 4.6% or $2,113
  • Asian women had an increase in median annual earnings of 4.4% or $2,337
  • Hispanic women saw an increase in median annual earnings of 1.8% or $602
  • Black women saw an increase of only 0.3% or $130 in median annual earnings

Since it doesn’t appear that the gender wage gap will be disappearing any time soon, women must be proactive about ensuring that they get the salary they deserve. One thing you can do is note what parts of the country are making the most progress in closing the gap. If it’s possible to live in one of those areas, it might pay off for you over time.

If it’s not practical for you to relocate, make sure you stay up on job training and education so you’re as prepared as possible for your current and future job opportunities. You’ll then have more leverage to use when negotiating for higher pay.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.