Women still don’t earn as much money as men. Women make about 81% of what men earn, or about $11,000 less every year.
The chart below from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that while the trend is improving, women of all age groups still don’t make as much money as men.
Women Make Less Money
Overall, women today make about 81% of what men make. This has climbed steadily from a rate of about 62% 36 years ago in 1979. The typical American woman today earns about $39,000 a year. The typical American man makes about $50,000 annually.
Young Women Make Less Money
Young women make about 90% of what young men make.
Young women between the ages of 16 and 24 have seen the least improvement over the past 35 years. They also make the most money compared to men in the same age group at about 90% of male earnings. The reason younger women earn more compared to men is likely because of the lower income jobs available to younger people.
Workers in the high school and college age brackets are more likely to have service and minimum wage jobs like waiting tables, bartending, flipping burgers or working in front line retail positions. These lower paying jobs tend to pay the same regardless of age, gender, education or status. It’s not surprising therefore that the gender gap is smaller here, though it does still exist.
Looking at the next age group up, the green line shows that women in the 25 to 34 year old age group have caught up with their younger counterparts. In 1979, these young women earned only about 67% of what men of the same age earned. Today, they’re making 90% of male earnings for a 23% jump.
Middle aged women make 75% to 80% of what men make.
The glass ceiling comes into play more as women get older. Between the ages of 35 and 65, things have mostly improved, though not as much. While women in this age bracket were making 60% of what men made or less 35 years ago, they’re now making from 75% to 80% of what men make. Middle aged women haven’t gained on male earnings as fast as those in the 25 to 34 year old group. It appears that men are either getting more promotions and more pay hikes as they gain experience or have an easier time being accepted into higher paying jobs to begin with. By contrast, as women gain experience, they’re generally being shut out of the higher pay brackets.
Women 65 and older make 77% of what men make.
The data show a curious trend for women age 65 and older. In this bracket, women started out earning about 77% of what men earned in the late 70’s. Over the next five years, female earnings showed a precipitous drop, bottoming out at about 65% of male earnings. From then to the present day, women in this age bracket have earned steadily more, making it back to where they started at about 77% of male earnings.
It’s been speculated that the reason for the large drop in female earnings in the early 80’s was caused by a correspondingly large spike in the number of older women entering the workforce at the same time. In other words, with an increased supply of older women in the labor market, their pay declined. The lack of a similarly large increase in men of the same age entering the workforce during that time period may at least partially explain why male wages didn’t similarly decline.
Women’s earnings may have come a long way over the past 35 years, but with women in general earning only 81% of what men earn, the economic gender gap remains vast.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Gender Gap – The Library of Economics and Liberty
- Labor Force Participation and Work Status of People 65 Years and Older – U.S. Census Bureau