The U.S. gender wage gap remained relatively stable last year, with women earning an average of 82% of men, according to the latest analysis of median hourly earnings for full-time and part-time workers by the Pew Research Center . .
In a report accompanying the finding released Wednesday, Pew economists noted that the gap in 2022 was little changed from the previous year but also from two decades ago, when women’s income was about 80% of income of men. In the previous 20 years—from 1982 to 2002—the gap had narrowed significantly, by about 15 percentage points from 65%, driven by cultural, social and legislative changes.
“There is no single explanation for why progress toward closing the wage gap has nearly stalled in the 21st century,” noted Rakesh Kochhar, senior researcher at the Pew Research Center. “Women generally start their careers closer to pay parity with men, but lose ground as they age and progress in their working lives, a pattern that has remained stable over time,” she added. “The pay gap persists, even though women today are more likely than men to have graduated from college.”
Pew data showed that parenthood is one of the dominant factors behind the persistent gender wage gap. Mothers between the ages of 25 and 44 are less likely to be in the labor force than women of the same age who do not have children at home, Pew found, and these women also tend to work fewer hours each week when they do.
“This may reduce the gains of some mothers, although the evidence suggests that the effect is either modest overall or short-lived for many,” Kochhar explained. Interestingly, however, he pointed out that fathers, in contrast, are more likely to be in the workforce – and to work more hours each week – than men without children at home.
This, Kochhar added, is linked to rising pay for fathers — a phenomenon sometimes referred to as the “fatherhood wage premium” — which in turn leads to an overall widening of the gender pay gap.
As has been the case since the 1980s, much of the increase in the gender pay gap occurs when workers reach their mid-thirties. Last year, women between the ages of 25 and 34 earned about 92% as much as their male counterparts, but that figure dropped to 83% for women aged 35 to 54. For women aged 55 to 65, it dropped to 79%.
Kochhar explained that part of this trend can be attributed to children. In 2022, about 40% of working women aged 25 to 34 had at least one child under 18 at home.
The latest Pew data also sheds light on the different experiences within gender groups, as a whole.
In 2022, black women, for example, earned just 70% as much as white men. Hispanic women earned only 65% as much. The ratio for white women was 83%, roughly in line with the overall gender pay gap, but Asian women were closer to parity with white men, at 93%. White women also enjoyed the biggest jump in earnings compared to men between 1982 and 2022.
Kochhar explained that to some extent, the gender wage gap varies by race and ethnicity because of differences in education, experience, types of occupation and other factors that determine the gender wage gap for women. women overall.
A significant body of research, however, also provides evidence of discrimination against certain demographic groups, including people of color—and especially women—but also workers with disabilities and those who identify as LGBTQ. “Hiring discrimination can fuel the wage gap by excluding workers from opportunities,” Kochhar said.
Multiple studies have also shown that women of color in the paid workforce were more likely than white workers to be laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic.