Sunday, October 21, 2018

Andrew Dowd

Gender pay gap keeps narrowing after recession

Working women now at about 80 percent of median yearly wage for men; local expert notes trend has slowed down

  • GenderChartWeb-jpg

    Median earnings comparison of full-time working men and women

    Staff graphic

The earnings gap continued shrinking between full-time working men and women locally and nationwide following the Great Recession, according to new Census Bureau statistics.

Comparing median full-time yearly earnings — one measure out of several used to look at the gender pay gap — working women now make about 80 percent of what men do in the U.S., according to the latest estimates.

Released earlier this month by the Census Bureau, the data use several years of American Community Survey estimates — the source of population information between decennial U.S. censuses — to allow a comparison of earnings during the recession and subsequent recovery.

The gender pay gap narrowed in the U.S. and Wisconsin during that time because the median earnings mark for men fell while women rose. That was the case in Chippewa and Dunn counties, but both genders made gains in Eau Claire County.

Now, it is a pretty generalized, broad way to look at gender pay comparisons but a local expert on the issue said the latest figures do fit the overall trend.

David Schaffer, an associate professor of economics at UW-Eau Claire, said the gap has been narrowing, but a longer view of the statistics show that women’s gains in recent years have been smaller.

“Notice that the growth has been slightly smaller in the last ten years,” he wrote in an email.

A spreadsheet on the Census Bureau’s website with annual earnings statistics that go back to the 1960s does show the ratio of women’s-to-men’s income growing at a slower pace recently.

Female workers started the 1980s earning about 60 percent of men, but got into the early 1990s earning 70 percent, based on the median full-time earnings statistics. Closing the gap by another 10 percent took about 25 years.

Though not available in the estimates released recently be the Census Bureau, there are statistics for hourly pay for each gender, which Schaffer said is his preferred measurement.

“I have gotten somewhat similar numbers while focusing on hourly pay,” he wrote. “However, my numbers have shown even less growth over the last ten years.”

In addition to looking at the midpoint of the pay scale where men and women land, more detailed looks into the gender gap consider additional factors such as education, experience, representation in specific job fields and additional demographic factors.

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