78 Cents Doesn’t Tell the Whole (Equal Pay) Story

June 04, 2015


Update September 17, 2015: The latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows minuscule changes to the numbers. Take a look at The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap report for the most current information.

We “celebrated” Equal Pay Day on April 14 this year, but unfortunately there are even later pay days to observe. Equal Pay Day represents the symbolic day when women’s earnings catch up to men’s earnings from the previous year. When the gender pay gap is broken down across various populations — including moms, African American women, and Latinas — it adds several additional Equal Pay Day “celebrations” to the calendar.

June 4 marks moms’ Equal Pay Day, the symbolic day when the average salaries of mothers who work full time, year-round, catch up to the salaries that fathers earned the previous year. Not only do working mothers suffer from an even wider pay gap, or “mommy tax;” working fathers in fact receive a “wage premium” as a result of becoming parents.

Image showing that it takes mothers six extra months to earn what fathers earn in one year

We’ve looked at the gender pay gap among women of different races/ethnicities and education levels; in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields; between men and women just one year out of college; in different states and congressional districts; and yes, even among NCAA basketball coaches. The data points to one conclusion: The gender pay gap is pervasive across racial backgrounds, education levels, geographic regions, and occupations nationwide, and it hurts women’s and families’ economic security and undermines the nation’s economy as a whole.

Despite this in-depth research, there are still skeptics who have a hard time getting past the widely reported 78 percent statistic. This statistic is the basis for Equal Pay Day, but it’s important to remember that 78 cents doesn’t tell the whole story of the gender pay gap.

Moms’ Equal Pay Day is one of several Equal Pay Day benchmarks this year:

  • Thursday, June 4 — Moms’ Equal Pay Day. Mothers must work an extra 155 days to catch up to their male counterparts, since working mothers typically receive 70 cents for every dollar working fathers receive.
  • Tuesday, July 28 — The symbolic day when African American women’s earnings catch up to non-Hispanic white men’s earnings from the previous year. Because non-Hispanic white men are the largest demographic group in the labor force, they are often used as a benchmark when we examine the gender pay gap. Compared with white men, African American women typically make just 64 cents on the dollar.
  • Thursday, October 15 — The symbolic day when Latinas’ earnings catch up to non-Hispanic white men’s earnings from the previous year. Yes, you read that right — Latinas have to work 10 months into the year to catch up to what white men made in the previous year! That’s because Latinas typically make 54 cents to the dollar when compared with white, non-Hispanic men.

We know that these three dates alone still do not capture every dimension of the gender pay gap. As AAUW’s research has shown, women of every race and ethnicity experience a gender pay gap. All these groups are paid only a portion of white, non-Hispanic men’s earnings: American Indian and Alaska Native women (59 percent); Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander women (65 percent); white, non-Hispanic women (78 percent); and Asian American women (90 percent).

Moreover, women with disabilities working full time, year-round typically earn 70 percent of what men without disabilities earn and 81 percent of what men with disabilities earn. Data on sexual orientation and gender identity is harder to come by, but studies have found that lesbian workers earn less than heterosexual and gay men do, and transgender women experience a significant drop in earnings after a gender transition.

The point of these statistics is not to get you down; rather, we need to understand that the gender pay gap is a multifaceted problem in need of a multifaceted solution. Part of that solution is raising awareness about gender pay discrimination and advocating for legislation to end it — and the upcoming Equal Pay Days are excellent opportunities for action.

Check out the following resources to help you mark one, two, or all of these Equal Pay Days:

  • A full set of how-tos for advocacy activities such as cake deliveries, rallies, letters to the editor, tabling, petitions, house meetings, and more!
  • Sample language for your governor, mayor, and/or city council to proclaim Equal Pay Day in your community
  • A look back at this year’s Equal Pay Day successes
  • AAUW Quick Facts on the Gender Pay Gap

This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Intern Chelsea Fowler.

AAUW Intern By:   |   June 04, 2015


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  3. […] Because the gap is wider for women of color, their day for equal pay comes later in the year: Equal Pay Day for African-American women is on July 28 and Equal Pay Day for Latina women is on October […]

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