Gender Wage Gap Statistics - Facts Reveal Women Earn Less Than Men

Percentage of Women's Earnings By Age, Race, Education, Marital Status

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While women overall earn less than men across the board, the size of the gender wage gap varies based on race, education, age and marital status. However, factors that narrow the gap do not necessarily represent increased earning power for female workers; instead, they often reflect the reduced earning potential of workers of both genders at the lowest levels of the labor force and the smaller percentage of women and people of color who hold higher paying positions in upper management levels.

Wage Gap Due to Both Gender and Race
For example, the percentage difference between what white women and white men earn (19.5%) is three times greater than the percentage difference between what black women and black men earn (6.5%.) However, the median weekly earnings of full-time African American workers ($592 for women and $633 for men) is significantly less than the median weekly earnings of full-time white workers ($684 for women and $850 for men.) Even if African American women successfully closed the gender gap with regard to their male peers, they would still earn only 74.4% of what white men earn.

Slow But Steady Gains
Fortunately, the gender wage gap has been steadily closing. In 1979, the gender wage gap was much greater with female full-time wage and salary workers 16 years and older earning just 62.3% of male workers. Just over three decades later, women's earnings had increased to 81.2%.

The statistics below are based on 2010 figures derived from the Current Population Survey (CPS), a national monthly survey of approximately 60,000 households conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They represent national annual averages for U.S. median usual weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers (in parentheses) with women's earnings shown as a percentage of men's earnings.

Earnings Overall
Compared to men's earnings, women overall earn 81.2%.

Earnings According to Race
Compared to the annual earnings of men of the same ethnicity

  • white women earn 80.5% ($684/week)
  • Asian women earn 82.6% ($773/week)
  • Hispanic women earn 90.7% ($508/week)
  • African American women earn 93.5% ($592/week)
Earnings According to Educational Attainment
Compared to the annual earnings of men who have attained the same level of education, women with
  • less than a high school diploma earn 79.8% ($388/week)
  • only a high school diploma earn 76.5% ($543/week)
  • an associate's degree or some college earn 75.5% ($638/week)
  • a bachelor's degree and higher earn 74.1% ($986/week)
Earnings According to Age
Compared to the annual earnings of men in the same age group, women between
  • 16-24 years earn 95.3% ($422/week)
  • 25-34 years earn 90.8% ($648/week)
  • 35-44 years earn 79.9% ($731/week)
  • 45-54 years earn 76.5% ($730/week)
  • 55-64 years earn 75.2% ($736/week)
  • 65+ years earn 75.7% ($601/week)
Earnings According to Marital Status
Compared to the annual earnings of men with the same marital status, women who are
  • never married earn 97.2% ($591/week)
  • married, spouse present, earn 77.4% ($737/week)
  • divorced earn 83.9% ($683/week)
  • separated earn 87.3% ($564/week)
  • widowed earn 79.6% ($652/week)
Based on the statistics above, the woman most likely to see the smallest gender wage gap as compared to her male counterpart sharing all the same characteristics above would be a never-married African American woman between the ages of 16-24 with less than a high school diploma. Her gender wage gap might be as small as 4.7%.

However, a minimal gender wage gap does not necessarily indicate a higher earnings capacity. The woman described above might have a median weekly earnings as low as $388 compared to a married (with spouse present) Asian American woman 55-64 years of age with a Bachelor's degree or higher whose median weekly earnings could be as high as $986, even with a gender wage gap as high as 25.9%.

Why Unions Benefit Women
Another significant factor likely to boost women's median weekly earnings and reduce the gender wage gap is membership in or representation by a union; on average, women associated with unions earned over $200 more per week than their non-union female peers ($847-$856 per week compared to $639.) Thus women in unions earn 93.3% of what men earn compared to non-union female workers who earn 89.1%.

White Males Still Biggest Earners
While comparisons between women of varying characteristics and backgrounds reveal significant differences in the gender wage gap between them and their male counterparts in terms of age, race, educational level, and marital status, all are minimal when women's earnings are compared to white males. African American working women earn just 69.6% of what white men earn.

"Highlights of Women's Earnings in 2010." U.S. Dept. of Labor, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. July 2011.