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Salary inequites boost poverty, study shows

NCR Staff

If women received the same pay as men for comparable work, the incidence of U.S. poverty would drop dramatically, according to a new study. As it is, women, on average, lose more than $4,000 a year in wages due to lower pay scales.

The study, jointly released Feb. 24 by the AFL-CIO and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, states:

  • If married women were paid the same as comparable men, their family incomes would rise by nearly 6 percent, and their families’ poverty would drop from 2.1 percent to 0.8 percent.
  • If single working mothers earned the same as comparable men, their family incomes would increase by nearly 17 percent. Their poverty rates would be halfed, from 25.3 percent to 12.6 percent.
  • If single women were paid comparably, their incomes would rise by 13.4 percent, and their poverty rates would be reduced from 6.3 percent to 1 percent.

Other analysis shows that women who work full-time are paid only 74 cents for every dollar men earn -- $148 less each week; full-time women of color earn only 64 cents for every male dollar -- $210 less per week.

Income inequality issues are not new, but there is a renewed revival of concern. In a 1997 study, "Ask a Working Woman," one third of all women and half of all African-American women told AFL-CIO researchers they do not have equal pay in their jobs. This year, in his State of the Union address, President Clinton declared his support for strengthening equal-pay enforcement.

Even where the comparable pay news is good it’s bad. In Washington, women earn 97 percent of what men make, but minority men in the nation’s capital receive very low wages. Unequal pay for women is worst in Michigan, Louisiana, Indiana, Montana, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Wyoming, where women earn only 70 percent of comparable men’s pay. Women of color fare worse, earning less than 60 percent of men’s rates, in Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah and Wyoming.

The best states -- comparably speaking -- for women are Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island -- but even there women earn only 80 percent of the comparable male wage.

Men in "female-dominated" jobs -- clerical workers, cashiers, librarians, child care -- suffer the same wage penalties as women, the report stated.

National Catholic Reporter, March 5, 1999