The Persistence of the Pay Gap

What Women Really Think
July 14 2010 12:05 PM

The Persistence of the Pay Gap


The Department of Labor has released its latest data on women's earning, and the Economix blog highlights how younger women experience a smaller wage gap relative to young male workers. In 2009, women ages 16 to 19 who worked full-time earned 90.7 percent of what men earned, while women ages 20 to 24 earned 92.9 percent, and women ages 45 to 54 earned just 73.6 percent.


The comparison makes this sound like good news. But what's actually shocking in this report is that there has been so little progress in eradicating the gender pay gap for the youngest cohorts of women workers. In 2000, the numbers were virtually the same as in 2009: Women ages 16 to 19 who worked full-time earned 91.9 percent of what men earned. This was the same as women ages 20 to 24, while women ages 45 to 54 earned just 72.7 percent.

Women now outnumber men on college campuses. How can it be that today's youngest cohorts of women workers are getting more education, yet still have not closed the gender pay gap? The sad truth is that the gap emerges as soon as women graduate. The American Association of University Women has shown that even once researchers account for the measurable factors that affect pay among graduates just one year out of school, such as type of job, whether the job boasts a flexible schedule, educational credentials (including grade point average and the selectivity of the college attended), a 5 percent pay gap remains unexplained for these new college graduates. This means that a woman who goes to the same school, gets the same grades, has the same major, takes the same kind of job with similar workplace flexibility perks, and has the same personal characteristics-such as marital status, race, and number of children-as her male colleague earns 5 percent less than him the first year out of school. Ten years later, even if she keeps pace with the men around her, the AAUW research found that she’ll earn 12 percent less. This is not about the choices a woman makes, because this analysis compares men and women who have made nearly identical choices.

While it’s true that women still take more time out of the labor force than men to care for their families, the vast majority of women workers ages 16 to 24 haven’t yet taken that time off. In looking for an explanation for the persistent pay gap among the younger cohorts of workers, one has to wonder just how far we’ve come.

Photograph of protesters by William West/Getty Images.


Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Subprime Loans Are Back

And believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

  News & Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
Dear Prudence
Sept. 23 2014 6:00 AM Naked and Afraid Prudie offers advice on whether a young boy should sleep in the same room with his nude grandfather.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
Sept. 23 2014 7:14 AM Fighting the Sophomore Slump, Five Novels at a Time Announcing the Slate/Whiting Second Novel List.
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 7:00 AM I Stand with Emma Watson
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.