Economic Snapshot | Women

How to give women a 70% pay raise

We could raise women’s wages by 70 percent—from $15.21 to $26.04 per hour—by closing the gender wage gap and eliminating the inequality that has kept all workers’ pay from rising with productivity. Over the last 35 years, women’s wages have increased a little and have crept closer to wages of men. Women at the median made 83 percent of the male median wage of $18.35 in 2014, up from 63 percent in 1979. Though the wage gap has narrowed, 40 percent of that narrowing was because men’s wages fell. If wages for men and women are equal but remain stagnant, closing the gender wage gap will not get women’s wages to where they should be.

Economic Snapshot

Eliminating the gender and inequality wage gap would raise women’s wages by more than 70%: Median hourly wages for men and women, compared with wages for all workers had they increased in tandem with productivity, 1979–2014

Wages for all workers Men’s wages Women’s wages Wages for all workers had they grown in tandem with productivity
1979 $16.00 $20.13 $12.61 $16.00
1980 $15.85 $19.83 $12.58 $15.88
1981 $15.43 $19.42 $12.47 $16.22
1982 $15.65 $19.27 $12.49 $15.98
1983 $15.57 $19.01 $12.65 $16.46
1984 $15.65 $18.92 $12.76 $16.89
1985 $15.79 $19.10 $12.82 $17.18
1986 $16.09 $19.64 $13.15 $17.53
1987 $16.10 $19.53 $13.49 $17.62
1988 $16.00 $19.16 $13.61 $17.82
1989 $15.91 $18.61 $13.60 $17.97
1990 $15.90 $18.32 $13.64 $18.22
1991 $16.00 $18.28 $13.70 $18.37
1992 $16.14 $18.13 $13.80 $19.03
1993 $16.02 $17.98 $13.96 $19.10
1994 $15.74 $17.66 $13.84 $19.28
1995 $15.62 $17.93 $13.75 $19.29
1996 $15.55 $17.81 $13.82 $19.75
1997 $15.92 $17.92 $14.16 $20.03
1998 $16.36 $18.56 $14.51 $20.43
1999 $16.87 $19.04 $14.64 $20.92
2000 $16.83 $19.16 $14.94 $21.41
2001 $17.18 $19.43 $15.26 $21.75
2002 $17.33 $19.52 $15.64 $22.36
2003 $17.54 $19.36 $15.68 $23.08
2004 $17.54 $19.13 $15.65 $23.70
2005 $17.33 $18.97 $15.54 $24.12
2006 $17.40 $18.93 $15.56 $24.26
2007 $17.26 $19.24 $15.69 $24.44
2008 $17.32 $19.13 $15.80 $24.48
2009 $17.61 $19.67 $16.07 $24.98
2010 $17.38 $19.16 $15.96 $25.71
2011 $16.91 $18.64 $15.67 $25.75
2012 $16.81 $18.60 $15.39 $25.88
2013 $16.97 $18.41 $15.35 $25.91
2014 $16.90  $18.35  $15.21   $26.04  
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Source: EPI analysis of unpublished Total Economy Productivity data from Bureau of Labor Statistics Labor Productivity and Costs program, wage data from the Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group

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Women and men should and could see their wages rise with productivity. They did before 1979—before policy decisions made on behalf of those with wealth and power excluded workers from sharing in increased prosperity. Had wages tracked productivity growth since 1979, working people would be making $26.04 an hour instead of $16.90. There is room in our economy to both close the gender wage gap and bring all workers’ wages back in line with increased productivity. To do this, we need to tilt bargaining power back toward low-and moderate-wage workers and end discriminatory policies that contribute to the gender wage gap.

This chart is from Closing the pay gap and beyond: A comprehensive strategy for improving economic security for women and families


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