New data from the U.S. Census Bureau's annual survey released this week reveal that the gap between the wages paid to women and men in this country has not improved in the last 11 years. This is a bitter pill for the nation's women and families, and a painful reminder that lawmakers' failure to act is causing grave harm to women, their families and our economy.
The wage gap must not continue to go unchecked. There is much more that Congress, the Obama administration and employers can and should be doing to help.
According to the new survey data, women with full-time, year-round jobs are paid just 77 cents for every dollar paid to men who hold full-time, year-round jobs. The gap amounts to more than $11,500 in lost income annually, which affects the short- and long-term financial security of women, their families and our economy. With women serving as essential breadwinners for their families, losing income that could go toward basic necessities can have devastating consequences.
For women of color, the wage gap is even more appalling and made worse by racial discrimination. African American women are paid 69 cents for every dollar paid to all men, and 64 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. Latinas are paid just 58 cents for every dollar paid to all men, and a mere 54 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. The effects of losses of this magnitude are appalling.
As a nation, we must do more to close the wage gap, which is present in every part of the country, regardless of women's occupation, education or work patterns. Fifty years ago in June, Congress sought to eradicate pay discrimination by passing the Equal Pay Act. But today, it is clear that its promise is unfulfilled. That is why this Congress should prioritize the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act, help to break harmful patterns of pay discrimination and establish stronger workplace protections for women.
The Obama administration can and should take concrete action too. For nearly two years, the National Partnership for Women & Families and a broad-based coalition of allies have been urging the Labor Department to adopt a new instrument for collecting data on the pay practices of businesses that contract with the federal government. These data would help to detect, eliminate and prevent pay discrimination, and they would help to keep taxpayer dollars from being used to subsidize unlawful pay discrimination. This is a reasonable, common sense measure that should not be delayed any longer.
The persistence of the gender-based wage gap is a blot on our nation's commitment to civil rights and equal opportunity. These new data should give Congress and the administration even more reason to make addressing it a priority. In doing so, both have the opportunity to set an example for employers, and to demonstrate a true commitment to improving the well-being of America's families.
NOTE: Since 2002, women have been paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to men, with two exceptions: In 2003, women were paid 76 cents for every dollar paid to men. And in 2007, women were paid 78 cents for every dollar paid to men.