West Virginia Women And Pay Gap

By Bob Weaver

Years ago my wife worked for a department store as a department head, and she was given a job that had been held by a man, but she was then given a "decrease in pay because she was not married and had children."

She did not take well to the adjustment, but was then given a nickel on the hour to make her happy.

Equal wages for women in West Virginia are behind, compared to other states.

West Virginia women's paychecks are not keeping pace with what men earn in the Mountain State.

A study by the National Partnership for Women & Families and released for Equal Pay Day on Tuesday finds that women in the state employed full time, year round are paid just 70 cents for every dollar paid to men - a yearly pay gap of $13,560.

If the gap between women and men's wages in West Virginia were eliminated, each woman who holds a full-time, year-round job in the state could afford to buy food for 2.1 more years, pay for mortgage and utilities for 14 more months, or pay rent for nearly 21 more months, the study said.

The study said women in West Virginia lose more than $3 billion every year, which is money that could strengthen the state economy and the financial security of West Virginia's women and families, including the nearly 84,000 West Virginia households headed by women.

The study said that the basic necessities women could afford if the wage gap were closed would be particularly important for the 36 percent of West Virginia's woman-headed households currently living below the poverty level.

Meanwhile, the study also found that for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men in West Virginia, African American women who work full time, year round are paid 60 cents. The national analysis found that the 10 states with the largest cents-on-the-dollar wage gaps in the country - from largest to smallest - are Louisiana, Utah, Wyoming, West Virginia, North Dakota, Alabama, Idaho, Oklahoma, Montana and Michigan.

The Gender Pay Gap Is Largely Because of Motherhood

Claire Cain Miller/NY Times

When men and women finish school and start working, they're paid pretty much equally. But a gender pay gap soon appears, and it grows significantly over the next two decades.

So what changes? The answer can be found by looking at when the pay gap widens most sharply. It's the late 20s to mid-30s, according to two new studies — in other words, when many women have children. Unmarried women without children continue to earn closer to what men do.

The big reason that having children, and even marrying in the first place, hurts women's pay relative to men's is that the division of labor at home is still unequal, even when both spouses work full time. That's especially true for college-educated women in high-earning occupations: Children are particularly damaging to their careers.

But even married women without children earn less, research shows, because women are more likely to give up job opportunities to either move or stay put for their husband's job. Married women might also take less intensive jobs in preparation for children, or employers might not give them more responsibility because they assume they'll have babies and take time off.

"One person focuses on career, and the other one does the lion's share of the work at home," said Sari Kerr, an economist at Wellesley College and an author of both papers.

One will be published in the American Economic Review this month; the other was published this month as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The other researchers were Claudia Goldin of Harvard, Claudia Olivetti of Boston College and Erling Barth of the Institute for Social Research in Oslo.

It is logical for couples to decide that the person who earns less, usually a woman, does more of the household chores and child care, Ms. Kerr said. But it's also a reason women earn less in the first place. "That reinforces the pay gap in the labor market, and we're trapped in this self-reinforcing cycle," she said.

Some women work less once they have children, but many don't, and employers pay them less, too, seemingly because they assume they will be less committed, research shows.

Even when mothers cut back at work, they are not paid proportionately less. When their pay is calculated on an hourly basis, they are still paid less than men for the hours they work, Ms. Goldin has shown in previous work. Employers, especially for jobs that require a college degree, pay people disproportionately more for working long hours and disproportionately less for working flexibly.

To achieve greater pay equality, social scientists say — other than women avoiding marriage and children — changes would have to take place in workplaces and public policy that applied to both men and women. Examples could be companies putting less priority on long hours and face time, and the government providing subsidized child care and moderate-length parental leave.

According to the data, Ms. Kerr said, college-educated women make about 90 percent as much as men at age 25 and about 55 percent as much at age 45.

The new working paper, which covered the broadest group of people over time, found that between ages 25 and 45, the gender pay gap for college graduates, which starts close to zero, widens by 55 percentage points. For those without college degrees, it widens by 28 percentage points.

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