Gender Pay Gap Won't Close for Another 43 Years

A new report predicts that the pay gap between men and women in the U.S. won't close until 2058. Scott Barbour/Getty

The pay gap between men and women in the United States is smaller than it was in 1960. But if the progress continues at the same rate we've seen over the last few decades, the income divide won't close until 2058, according a report released on Thursday by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, a Washington, D.C.–based think tank.

"Women who work full-time, year-round still earn only 78 cents on the dollar compared with men," according to the authors of the report. "During the last decade little improvement has been made in closing the gender wage gap…and occupational segregation—the concentration of women in some jobs and men in others—remains a stubborn feature of the U.S. labor market."

The 78 cents statistic comes from census income data about all men and women working full-time, year round, without controlling for their job or education, among other factors. It's a basic figure that offers a broad snapshot of what women earn in the U.S. compared to men.

Critics have called the statistic overly simplistic, saying it doesn't compare pay for equal work, that it lumps people without a high school diploma with college graduates and tries to extrapolate meaning.

But Ariane Hegewisch, the co-author of the report, says the statistic is an important, but "simple tool to get us to think about why" we have yet to reach gender parity in pay. About 40 percent of the overall gap comes from discrimination, she estimates, while another 40 percent comes from occupational segregation and the rest from other factors.

In some states, the report estimates pay parity will come sooner or much later (if change continues at the same rate), with Florida arriving first in 2038 and Wyoming last in 2159.

3-16-15 Gender pay gap state by state
The projected year for closing the gender wage gap varies by state. The linear projection is based on the current rate of progress in closing the gender wage gap since 1959 and the ratio of women’s to men’s earnings among full-time, year-round workers ages 16 and older. IWPR calculations are based on the 1960, 1970, 1980, and 2000 Decennial Censuses (for the calendar years 1959, 1969, 1979, 1989, and 1999) and the 2001–2013 American Community Surveys. Institute for Women’s Policy Research

"The lack of progress is concerning, particularly if you take into account the quite considerable progress of educational attainment over past 10 or 15 years," Hegewisch says.

Yet the pay gap is the largest among well-educated women, the report found. Without controlling for occupation, women who received graduate degrees bring in roughly 69.1 percent of what their male counterparts earn.

3-16-15 Gender pay gap education
This graph shows the median annual earnings and the gender earnings ratio for women and men at different educational levels in 2013. Full-time, year-round workers ages 25 years and older are included and percentages in parentheses show women’s earnings as percent of men’s earnings. The analysis is based on American Community Survey microdata. Institute for Women’s Policy Research

The gender gap was smaller among millennials (defined here as those 16 to 34 years old in 2013) than in the overall population, as young women earned 85.7 percent of what their male counterparts did.

The study also looked at the gender gap by race. Asian and Pacific Islander women earned more than females in other racial groups, with a median annual income of $46,000, and Asian and Pacific Islander men were the only group to out earn white males.

Median incomes for African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans were lower than those of whites and Asian and Pacific Islanders. But the gender gap was also smaller within those groups. This was especially true for African-American and Latino women, whose income was roughly 91 percent of men's income in the same group.

3-16-15 Gender pay gap race
This graph shows the median annual earnings for women and men employed full-time, year-round in the U.S. by race/ethnicity in 2013. It includes women and men ages 16 and older. Racial groups are non-Hispanic. Hispanics may be of any race or two or more races. The analysis is based the American Community Survey microdata. Institute for Women’s Policy Research

The U.S. saw reductions in the gender pay gap between 1980 and 2000, as men's real earnings stagnated while women's grew. But progress stalled between 2001 and 2012, the report says, when both men's and women's real earnings remained relatively stable.

"The ideal scenario is for both women and men to see gains in real earnings because the economy can improve and productivity can improve," says Hegewisch, but for women's earnings and productivity to grow at a faster pace to slowly reach equality.

She cites paid parental leave, childcare and the value of minimum wage as some of the factors that could help close the gap.