Equal Pay by the Numbers

Over fifty after the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Senate is poised to vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, a much needed update to this law. While the Equal Pay Act was a historic piece of legislation that finally acknowledged that women were owed equal pay for equal work, it's clear that additional improvements are still needed. As we "celebrate" Equal Pay Day on April 8, the symbolic day into 2014 a woman must work to earn as much as a man did in 2013 alone, there is no better time for Congress to vote for equal pay now.

Here are some numbers to consider in advance of the vote.

  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women who work full time still earn, on average, only 77 cents for every 1 dollar men earn.
  • The statistics are even worse for women of color. On average, African American women being paid only 64 cents, and the gap for Latinas is only 54 cents when compared to white men.
  • Just one year out of college, women working full time who are of similar age, education, and family responsibilities are paid on average just 82 cents of what their male peers were paid.
  • If the wage gap were closed, women and their families, on average, would have $11,000 more in their pockets.
  • By age 65, the average woman has lost $431,000 due to the earnings gap.
  • If women received pay equal to their male counterparts, the U.S. economy would produce $447.6 billion in additional income.

And here's another number: 60

That's the number of Senators we need to vote to allow the Paycheck Fairness Act to move forward.

The Senate is expected to take a procedural vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act next week to allow the bill to be debated and heard on its merits. It's been 17 years since this bill was first introduced, and it deserves to make it past this hurdle and get an up or down vote.

Support for the Paycheck Fairness Act is overwhelming: 84% of registered voters said they support a new law that would provide women more tools to get fair pay in the workplace. But unfortunately, partisan gridlock may mean getting 60 senators to support moving forward on the bill will prove the hardest number of all.

Looking at the real life impact of the wage gap, that just doesn't add up. In this tough economic climate, there is no better time than now for our Members of Congress to support fair pay legislation. Families clearly want and need to bring home every dollar they rightfully earn – making pay equity even more necessary, not only to families' economic security, but to the nation's economic recovery. Senators must recognize that not only is correcting discrimination a matter of fundamental fairness, but doing so would help to contribute to economic prosperity nationwide. These are dollars that already belong to their constituents.

When the bill comes up for a vote, we urge the Senate to do the right thing – for women, for their families, and for our nation.

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Robert Taylor

This completely neglects for the fact that the 77 cents on the dollar figure is calculated by taking the median wage of ALL men and ALL women. It fails to account for what industry they work in, what level they are in the company, how many hours they work, etc.

The simple fact of the matter is that women gravitate towards lower-paying occupations. Once you account for the different sectors men and women work in, the number rises to about 91 cents on the dollar. Upon further controlling for variables, some economists have found that women actually make more than men.

I have to conclude that those who advocate for bills like this are either grossly misinformed or they are purposely misrepresenting the facts. To apply equivalent analysis, retail workers make a lot less than engineers, so retail workers are being discriminated against. Of course, this makes no sense, and trying to pass legislation to pay retail workers the same wages as engineers would completely destroy the labor market.

If we want to change the "gender-wage gap," then women have to move into sectors that pay higher wages. However, being that you represent the ACLU, I would think that you would advocate for the idea that it is the right of women to decide what type of job they choose. Is it really right for us to say that women need to choose to be engineers rather than teachers?

Robert Taylor

This grossly misrepresents the 77 cents on the dollar statistic. The statistic is calculated by taking the median wage of ALL women against ALL men. It does not account for the different sectors worked in, number of hours worked, or experience factors like gaps in employment. The simple fact of the matter is that women gravitate towards lower-wage occupations. By controlling for the different fields men and women work in, the gap closes to around 91 cents on the dollar.

The other 9 cents can be explained mainly through the rational decisions that women make in relation to the workforce. Many women decide to raise children, creating gaps in employment or work less hours during the week to spend more time with their kids. This differences have absolutely nothing to do with discrimination – only the basic labor/leisure trade-off.

To suggest, as President Obama has, that women make 77 cents on the dollar for equal work is equivalent to saying that retail workers are being discriminated against because they make less money than engineers. To try to correct for a difference in pay would almost certain destroy the labor market.

It seems to me that those who support the Paycheck Fairness Act either misunderstand the issues at work or they are choosing to misrepresent the facts in order to appeal to the electorate. I would think that Deborah Vagins, due to her affiliation with the ACLU, would support the right of women to choose what type of job they work. The only way to close the “gender-wage gap” is to advocate for women to pursue higher paying jobs. It is my belief that women should be allowed to pursue jobs that they would prefer to work rather than being pushed into other fields.


There's a recent article in the Wall Street Journal that points to the Trial Lawyers salivating at the thought of this law and all the fat paychecks that would come from the lawsuits that would result from the efforts at determining equivalency. This law could just as easily be renamed "The Trail Lawyers Full Employment Act".


The more significant measure of how men and women benefit in our culture is life expectancy, not mere material matters like pay, income, or wealth. My source says that life expectancy for American women is 4.6 years longer than it is for me, er, I mean, for men. The gap was 7.0 years in women's favor in 1985. If and when the gap in life expectancy becomes negligible, I will reconsider which sex has it tougher. How much would you pay to increase your life expectancy by 4.6 years?

Vicki B.

I'm terrible at interpreting statistics, but I'd still bet a large sum of money that the first and second poster (who are obviously the same person) is completely full of nonsense.
Some "guys" have this all-out hating women attitude that's so bad they can't even control themselves at the scene of an accident in which their girlfriend is lying on the ground maimed enough to need paramedics.
And her "boyfriend" stands at the scene telling anybody who doesn't care to listen that his girlfriend being a feminist is "strike 1, 2, 3 and 4 against her."
I thought 'Why don't you just buy a mannequin for a girlfriend, arrange her arms and legs the way YOU think they should be, because you're not even LOOKing for a person when you make a ninny statement like that. You're suggesting she should shut up and sit there like a pincushion, and do whatever you want of her whenever you say to jump.'
And that's not the worst part of the scene; the most disturbing part of it is that she was in serious condition moving toward critical at a rapid rate.
I decided I needed to ask him to please don't crowd the patient, because traumatized people get worse when upset relatives, especially abusively upset ones, start putting them down or showing anger at them.
Of course, he refused to leave when *I* told him to, he had to wait for my male partner to ask him and then he wanted to argue about it so I asked for help with it.
After witnessing THAT embarrassing spectacle of someone more concerned with themselves than a person he claims to "love," nobody will EVer convince me it's not about raging hatred of women for some of them.

Robert Taylor


I'm sorry you feel that I'm full of nonsense. Also, I rewrote the post because I didn't realize the comments had to go through moderation first and thought mine didn't submit.

I'm not sure what your argument has do with the gender-wage gap, but I would encourage you to look into interpreting statistics. My field is economics and we spend a lot of time being trained in statistics/econometrics to calculate relations between the types of factors I mentioned in my comment.

I don't hate women - I just have a certain respect for the truth. There are plenty of scholarly papers as well as news reports that debunk this "77 cents on the dollar" argument. If you really believe that the Paycheck Fairness Act would have added an average of $11,000 of additional wages for women, I'm sorry, but that just won't happen. It's not a discrimination issue. Like I said before, women make choices that influence how much they get paid. Plain and simple.

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