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May 30, 2012

Data on Virginia’s Gender Pay Gap

The Virginian Pilot’s political blog, Pilot on Politics, ran a story recently that invokes the issue of the gender pay gap, noting that in Virginia women earned 79 cents for every dollar earned by a man. That’s true at the median, as we presented in our report, Unbalanced, Unequal, Undercut: The State of Working Virginia, Part One: Wages & Income (p. 7-8). But there’s more. Excerpted from that report:

Inequalities by Gender
At the median, Virginia women earned $15.40 an hour in 2010, placing them as the 14th highest nationally. Virginia men earned $19.59, which ranks them 10th highest nationally. Yet in 2010, 37 states had smaller differences in the median wages of men and women than Virginia. As shown in Figure 8, at the median, Virginia women earned just $0.79 for every $1.00 earned by men. This compares to $0.83 nationally. While the gap narrowed nationally, Virginia lost ground on this measure between 2009 and 2010 — falling from $0.83 on the dollar in 2009 to $0.79 in 2010. But looking at just the difference in median wages masks some interesting effects of the recession on the wages of men and women. As shown in Figure 9, men have experienced more dramatic swings in wages than women. At the low end of the wage distribution, men have seen a greater share of their wages disappear, while for the top 80 percent, they have experienced larger gains. Thus, the gender difference in wage growth is more pronounced at higher positions in the wage distribution. A result of this unequal wage growth by gender during the recession creates a slight narrowing of the gender wage gap at certain positions in the wage distribution and a widening of it in others. For example, among the top 10 percent, the gender pay gap increased by about $0.08. In other words, in 2007 the highest earning women earned $0.80 for every dollar earned by the highest earning men, but by 2010, they earned just under $0.73. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the gender wage gap has narrowed by as much as $0.06 on the dollar for the bottom 10 percent of earners. Generally speaking, the gap has grown for women at the median and up, and narrowed for women earning below the median.

Greater wage inequality by gender among high earners is not a new phenomenon in Virginia. For the last 30 years, the gender pay gap has been larger at higher levels of the wage distribution and smaller at lower levels. Figure 10 shows a snapshot of these differences at two points in time — 1980 and 2010. While substantial progress has been made in chipping away at the differential for Virginians across the entire wage distribution; among higher earners, significant room for improvement remains. In addition to wage ratios, Figure 10 shows the raw dollar gap in hourly wage between men and women in 2010. At the median, for instance, the fact that women earn just $0.79 for every dollar earned by men translates into about a $4.19 hourly wage gap. Over the course of a year of full-time work, this equals about $8,715 less in pay.

For the top 10 percent of workers, where the wage gap is the widest, an hourly difference of about $14.53 translates into a difference of over $30,000 in annual earnings.

You can read the entire report here.

The Commonwealth Institute

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