Racial, gender wage gaps persist in U.S. despite some progress (2023)

Large racial and gender wage gaps in the U.S. remain, even as they have narrowed in some cases over the years. Among full- and part-time workers in the U.S., blacks in 2015 earned just 75% as much as whites in median hourly earnings and women earned 83% as much as men.

Looking at gender, race and ethnicity combined, all groups, with the exception of Asian men, lag behind white men in terms of median hourly earnings, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. White men are often used in comparisons such as this because they are the largest demographic group in the workforce – 33% in 2015.

In 2015, average hourly wages for black and Hispanic men were $15 and $14, respectively, compared with $21 for white men. Only the hourly earnings of Asian men ($24) outpaced those of white men.

Among women across all races and ethnicities, hourly earnings lag behind those of white men and men in their own racial or ethnic group. But the hourly earnings of Asian and white women ($18 and $17, respectively) are higher than those of black and Hispanic women ($13 and $12, respectively) – and also higher than those of black and Hispanic men.

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While the hourly earnings of white men continue to outpace those of women, all groups of women have made progress in narrowing this wage gap since 1980, reflecting at least in part a significant increase in the education levels and workforce experience of women over time.

White and Asian women have narrowed the wage gap with white men to a much greater degree than black and Hispanic women. For example, white women narrowed the wage gap in median hourly earnings by 22 cents from 1980 (when they earned, on average, 60 cents for every dollar earned by a white man) to 2015 (when they earned 82 cents). By comparison, black women only narrowed that gap by 9 cents, from earning 56 cents for every dollar earned by a white man in 1980 to 65 cents today. Asian women followed roughly the trajectory of white women (but earned a slightly higher 87 cents per dollar earned by a white man in 2015), whereas Hispanic women fared even worse than black women, narrowing the gap by just 5 cents (earning 58 cents on the dollar in 2015).

Black and Hispanic men, for their part, have made no progress in narrowing the wage gap with white men since 1980, in part because there have been no improvements in the hourly earnings of white, black or Hispanic men over this 35-year period. As a result, black men earned the same 73% share of white men’s hourly earnings in 1980 as they did in 2015, and Hispanic men earned 69% of white men’s earnings in 2015 compared with 71% in 1980.

To be sure, some of these wage gaps can be attributed to the fact that lower shares of blacks and Hispanics are college educated. U.S. workers with a four-year college degree earn significantly more than those who have not completed college. Among adults ages 25 and older, 23% of blacks and 15% of Hispanics have a bachelor’s degree or more education, compared with 36% of whites and 53% of Asians.

However, looking just at those with a bachelor’s degree or more education, wage gaps by gender, race and ethnicity persist. College-educated black and Hispanic men earn roughly 80% the hourly wages of white college educated men ($25 and $26 vs. $32, respectively). White and Asian college-educated women also earn roughly 80% the hourly wages of white college-educated men ($25 and $27, respectively). However, black and Hispanic women with a college degree earn only about 70% the hourly wages of similarly educated white men ($23 and $22, respectively). As with workers overall, college-educated Asian men out-earn college-educated white men by about $3 per hour of work.

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What contributes to these persistent wage gaps? Research shows that a majority of each of these gaps can be explained by differences in education, labor force experience, occupation or industry and other measurable factors.

For example, NBER researchers Francine Blau and Lawerence Kahn found that education and workforce experience accounted for 8% of the total gender wage gap in 2010, while industry and occupation explained 51% of the difference. When it comes to race, sociologists Eric Grodsky and Devah Pager found that education and workforce experience accounted for 52% of the wage gap between black and white men working in the public sector in 1990, and that adding occupational differences explained approximately 20% of the wage gap. And NBER researcher Roland Fryer found that for one group of adults in their 40s, controlling for standardized-test scores reduced the wage gap between black men and white men in 2006 by roughly 70%.

The remaining gaps not explained by these concrete factors are often attributed, at least in part, to discrimination. Blau and Kahn point out, however, that there are both portions of this “unmeasured” difference that could be due to factors other than discrimination (e.g., gender differences in behaviors like risk aversion or negotiation) as well as portions of the “measured” difference that may in fact be due to discrimination (e.g., a woman or minority not entering a high-paying STEM field because of experiences that may be rooted in prejudice, such as greater encouragement for men than women to pursue these studies).

When it comes to racial discrimination in the workplace, most Americans (60%) say blacks and whites are treated about equally, but opinions on this vary considerably across racial and ethnic groups. A new Pew Research Center report finds that roughly two-thirds (64%) of blacks say black people in the U.S. are generally treated less fairly than whites in the workplace; just 22% of whites and 38% of Hispanics agree.

About two-in-ten black adults (21%) and 16% of Hispanics say that in the past year they have been treated unfairly in hiring, pay or promotion because of their race or ethnicity; just 4% of white adults say the same. And while 40% of blacks say their race or ethnicity has made it harder for them to succeed in life, just 5% of whites – and 20% of Hispanics – say this. Some 31% of whites say their race or ethnicity has eased the way toward their success. At least six-in-ten whites (62%) and Hispanics (65%), and about half of blacks (51%), say their race or ethnicity hasn’t made much of a difference.

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For their part, about a quarter of women (27%) say their gender has made it harder for them to succeed in life, compared with just 7% of men. About six-in-ten men and women say their gender hasn’t made much difference, but men are much more likely than women to say their gender has made it easier to succeed (30% vs. 8%). In addition, a 2013 Pew Research Center survey found that about one-in-five women (18%) say they have faced gender discrimination at work, including 12% who say they have earned less than a man doing the same job because of their gender. By comparison, one-in-ten men say they have faced gender-based workplace discrimination, including 3% who say their gender has been a factor in earning lower wages.


Economic InequalityGenderGender Pay Gap

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Eileen Patten is a former research analyst focusing on Hispanic, social and demographic trends at Pew Research Center.

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Has the gender pay gap in the US held steady? ›

The gender gap in pay has remained relatively stable in the United States over the past 20 years or so. In 2022, women earned an average of 82% of what men earned, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of both full- and part-time workers.

Why is the gender pay gap so persistent? ›

Flexibility vs.

While many factors contribute to the gender wage gap, including discriminatory practices, research suggests that time away from employment, occupational clustering, and the time demands of jobs explain much of the difference in wages between men and women.

What are two contributing factors to the gender pay gap in US society? ›

There are a multitude of factors that may contribute to earnings differences between women and men: age, number of hours worked, presence of children, and education.

How long has the gender pay gap been around in the US? ›

Though the gender wage gap probably dates to the beginnings of civilization, it emerged as a political issue in the U.S. in the 1860s under the rallying cry of “Equal Pay for Equal Work.”

Is the gender pay gap reducing? ›

Median pay for all employees was 14.9% less for women than for men in April 2022. The full-time pay gap has been getting smaller since 1997 and the overall pay gap has also decreased over the period. The part-time pay gap has generally remained small and negative, with women earning more than men on average.

What are the statistics on the gender pay gap? ›

For the economy as a whole, in 2021, women's gross hourly earnings were on average 12.7 % below those of men in the European Union (EU) and 13.6 % in the euro area. Across EU Member States, the gender pay gap varied by 20.7 percentage points, ranging from -0.2 % in Luxembourg to 20.5 % in Estonia (Figure 1).

What is the biggest cause of the gender wage gap? ›

The largest identifiable causes of the gender wage gap are differences in the occupations and industries where women and men are most likely to work.

What problems are caused by gender pay gap? ›

Consequences of the Gender Pay Gap. Lower pay makes it harder for women, especially single women, to get ahead financially. Their lower earnings make it harder for them to save money for emergencies or retirement.

How can the gender pay gap be fixed? ›

Strategies for narrowing the gender pay gap
  1. Raise the minimum wage. ...
  2. Increase pay transparency. ...
  3. Unionize workplaces. ...
  4. Implement fair scheduling practices. ...
  5. Expand paid family and medical leave. ...
  6. Increase access to child care. ...
  7. Stop basing employee pay on salary history. ...
  8. Improve work-life balance.
Sep 14, 2022

How can gender inequality be solved? ›

  1. From increasing women's representation in leadership and decision-making to redistributing care-work and productive resources, progress towards a gender equal and sustainable future starts with taking action today. ...
  2. Empower women smallholders. ...
  3. Invest in care. ...
  4. Support women's leadership. ...
  5. Fund women's organizations.
Feb 28, 2022

Is gender pay gap an ethical issue? ›

What is the ethical issue? The gender pay gap represents embedded discrimination, stereotypes and barriers in opportunities for women. To much of the public, the gap's existence in business is a problem that needs rectifying.

How do you explain gender inequality? ›

What is gender inequality? Gender inequality is discrimination on the basis of sex or gender causing one sex or gender to be routinely privileged or prioritized over another. Gender equality is a fundamental human right and that right is violated by gender-based discrimination.

When did the gender pay gap end? ›

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 proscribes gender-based pay discrimination among employees within the same establishment who do "substantially equal" work.

What is gender pay gap opposite? ›

Because of this, we have what is called a negative pay gap, or a reverse pay gap, which means that women average higher pay than men, in the organization as a whole, and in five of the six countries we analyzed.

Where is the lowest gender pay gap in the world? ›

Iceland has once again been named the most gender equal country, topping the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2022.

What is the root cause of the wage gap? ›

Opportunity inequity

Another cause of the pay gap is unequal access to opportunities. When underrepresented groups of employees don't have equal access to jobs, promotions, opportunities to collaborate on certain projects, and other forms of advancement, it hinders their chances of moving into higher-paying roles.

Is the gender pay gap getting worse? ›

The gender wage gap

Women, on average, were paid 20.3% less than men in 2019. By 2022, that gap widened to 22.2%. Similarly, the regression-adjusted wage gap, which has been stagnant for most of the last 20+ years, widened slightly from 22.6% to 22.9%.

How the gender pay gap affects women's mental health? ›

Women who earn a lower income for the same work are more likely to suffer from mood disorders including depression and anxiety. Larger gaps in pay and gender inequities are also associated with worse mortality outcomes, poorer self-rated health, and increased disability.

What are the examples of pay discrimination? ›

2-What are some examples of pay discrimination? Pay discrimination occurs when an employee is paid differently from others because of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (40 or older), or genetic information.

How do you ensure equal pay for equal work? ›

Here are five ways you can ensure equal pay on your team:
  1. Prevent salary disparities before making new hires. ...
  2. Review employee compensation on a regular basis. ...
  3. Separate compensation reviews from performance reviews. ...
  4. Disclose salary ranges for different positions and levels. ...
  5. Advocate for your people.

How can we ensure pay cultures are equitable? ›

Publish and gain commitment for employee performance criteria. Offer Training and Other Accommodations: Offer management training, skills training, or other learning opportunities to all employees so that both women and men have the same opportunities for promotions. Support training programs for women in the trades.

How do I advocate for equal pay? ›

Advocating for equal pay as a woman employee
  1. Know your worth. Always know what you should be getting paid. ...
  2. Ask for a raise. Make a strong case for yourself as to why you should be paid more and remind your employer what value you bring to the company. ...
  3. Share your story.
Mar 14, 2023

How can we overcome gender discrimination in society? ›

7 Ways of overcoming gender bias
  1. Learn to recognise gender bias. ...
  2. Check your own interactions for bias. ...
  3. Audit your media choices. ...
  4. Look around your workplace. ...
  5. Understand and use your privilege to influence. ...
  6. Representing female role models. ...
  7. Share learning and speak up.
Mar 8, 2022

What are the four main factors that impact gender inequality? ›

Four key themes reveal how gender inequalities cut across different social spheres: power, rights, work-life balance and gender-based violence.

What are three ways gender inequality? ›

HIV and gender inequality is linked through:
  • Gender-based violence. ...
  • Gender norms and stereotypes. ...
  • Restrictions on access to services. ...
  • Child marriage. ...
  • Education and poverty. ...
  • Involve women and girls in decision-making. ...
  • Accept and respect women's rights and choices.

Is gender equality still an issue today? ›

Stark gender disparities remain in economic and political realms. While there has been some progress over the decades, on average women in the labour market still earn 20 per cent less than men globally. As of 2021, only 25 per cent of all national parliamentarians were female, a slow rise from 11.3 per cent in 1995.

How can we improve gender equality? ›

Ways to promote gender equality in daily life
  1. Help individual women succeed. ...
  2. Discuss gender equality with family members and children. ...
  3. Encourage financial inclusion. ...
  4. Support women-owned businesses. ...
  5. Shop from companies and businesses that promote gender equality. ...
  6. Promote gender equality at home.

Is gender equality achievable? ›

According to UN Women's most recent report, at the current rate of progress, it will take 286 years for the world to achieve gender equality. Per the World Economic Forum it will take another 132 years to close the global gender gap.

What are some of the current causes of workplace gender inequality in the United States? ›

Here are five major challenges still facing women in the workplace.
  • Unequal pay. On average, American women are more educated than men. ...
  • Sexual harassment. An obstacle that many women face in the workforce is sexual harassment. ...
  • Racism. ...
  • Women are promoted less often than men. ...
  • Fear of asking to be paid what you're worth.
Feb 25, 2019

What are 3 examples of inequality in society today? ›

The major examples of social inequality include income gap, gender inequality, health care, and social class.

What are the effects of gender inequality in society? ›

With the prevalence of gender discrimination, and social norms and practices, girls become exposed to the possibility of child marriage, teenage pregnancy, child domestic work, poor education and health, sexual abuse, exploitation and violence.

How does gender equality affect society? ›

Gender equality prevents violence against women and girls

men's control of decision-making and limits to women's independence. rigid gender roles and stereotypes. male relationships that emphasise aggression and disrespect towards women.

Which US state has the largest gender pay gap? ›

Below are the states with the biggest wage gaps between men and women in 2021: Wyoming: Women who worked full-time made 68 cents for every dollar a man made.

Which occupation has the highest gender wage gap? ›

Here are 10 industries with the largest gender pay gaps, according to Lensa.
  • Chief executives. ...
  • First-line supervisors of production and operating workers. ...
  • Sales and related occupations. ...
  • Medical assistants. ...
  • Technologists and technicians. ...
  • Personal financial advisors. ...
  • Medical scientists. ...
  • Legal occupations.
Dec 30, 2022

What is the most recent Equal Pay Act? ›

Essential points. Men and women in the same employment, performing equal work, are entitled to equal pay under the Equality Act 2010 unless a pay difference can be justified.

Why is the Equal Pay Act not working? ›

The law has been weakened by loopholes, inadequate remedies, and adverse court rulings, resulting in protection that is far less effective than Congress originally intended.

What is the gender pay gap by race in 2023? ›

For every dollar paid to White, non-Latino men, White non-Latina women are paid 77 cents; Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women are paid 75 cents; Black women are paid 64 cents; Latina women are paid 54 cents and Native American women are paid 51 cents.

What is the gender pay gap regression? ›

The "adjusted" or "unexplained" pay gap (often referred to as the equal pay gap) is measured by regression analysis. This analysis calculates the difference in pay between women and men after accounting for the factors that determine pay, like job role, education, and experience.

What state has the lowest gender pay gap? ›

Differences in earnings can be due to a range of factors, such as variation in a state's economy and labor force. Connecticut had the smallest pay gap of all states in 2020, with women earning 97 cents to men's dollar, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How to fix the gender pay gap? ›

Strategies for narrowing the gender pay gap
  1. Raise the minimum wage. ...
  2. Increase pay transparency. ...
  3. Unionize workplaces. ...
  4. Implement fair scheduling practices. ...
  5. Expand paid family and medical leave. ...
  6. Increase access to child care. ...
  7. Stop basing employee pay on salary history. ...
  8. Improve work-life balance.
Sep 14, 2022

What is the gender pay gap in US healthcare? ›

For every dollar a man earns, a woman earns only 74 cents. This translates to between $0.9 million and $2.5 million less in career earnings for women physicians compared to men, depending on the type of medicine practiced.

What is an example of unequal pay between genders? ›

For example, among workers who were self-employed in their own incorporated business, women earned an estimated 69 cents for every dollar earned by men (a pay gap of 31 cents on the dollar).

Why do females get paid less than males? ›

Women's labor is undervalued. Most of the disparity in women and men's pay cannot be explained by measurable differences between them. Out of the causes of the wage gap that we can measure, the main contributor is that women are more likely than men to work in low-paying jobs that offer fewer benefits. Education.

Is pay discrimination based on gender? ›

Equal Pay/Compensation and Sex Discrimination

Title VII also makes it illegal to discriminate based on sex in pay and benefits. Therefore, someone who has an Equal Pay Act claim may also have a claim under Title VII.

What is an example of wage discrimination? ›

2-What are some examples of pay discrimination? Pay discrimination occurs when an employee is paid differently from others because of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, disability, age (40 or older), or genetic information.


1. Debate: Gender Pay Gap - 4 October 2017
(The Scottish Parliament)
2. Women’s are Paid Less than Men- Why?
(GKToday 2.0)
3. America’s Racist Economy • State of Working America Podcast
(Economic Policy Institute)
4. Theories of Gender: Crash Course Sociology #33
5. Show Me the Money! Busting the Pay Gap Myth and Examining Pay Equity for the Most Impacted Groups
(USC Race and Equity Center)
6. Gender Stratification: Crash Course Sociology #32
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