Press Releases

JEC Releases New GAO Report on the Gender-Wage Gap Among Low-Wage and Less-Educated Workers

Nov 03 2011

Washington, D.C.
– Today, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Chairman of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC), and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), former Chair of the JEC, released a new GAO report requested by the JEC that  details the gender-wage gap among low-wage and less-educated workers. The GAO report entitled, “Gender Pay Differences: Progress Made but Women Overrepresented Among Low-wage Workers,”  shows that, on average, women with a high school degree or less earned lower hourly wages than men with a high school degree or less. Among these less-educated workers, women tended to work in industries and occupations that had lower wages than those in which men worked. The report finds that in 2000, less-educated women earned 81 cents for every dollar men earned.  By 2010, the pay gap had shrunk by 5 cents – to 86 cents per dollar.

“What we’ve seen over and over – in study after study –  is that even after controlling for age, experience, education, occupation and other factors, women are paid less than men for the same work. While the gap has narrowed, it remains significant,” said Senator Bob Casey, Chairman of the JEC. “Families count on the wages women earn.  And we should all be able to count on women being paid fairly for their work.”

The report shows that while women in general have surpassed men in obtaining education over the last three decades, on average, less-educated women earn lower wages than less-educated men. Although women were older and had greater high school graduation rates than men among the less educated, women’s wages lagged behind men’s. Within this less-educated group, 81 percent of women compared with 75 percent of men had a high school diploma in 2010. Less-educated women also tended to be older than less-educated men, averaging about age 45 compared with about age 42 for men.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Women are overrepresented among low-wage workers.  While women made up 49 percent of the total workforce in 2010, women accounted for 59 percent of the low-wage workforce.
  • An estimated 43 percent of less-educated women were unmarried, including those with and without children in the household (compared with about 36 percent of men). Less-educated unmarried women were almost three times more likely than less-educated unmarried men to have a child in the household. These single woman households had among the lowest total annual income of all households—averaging about $37,000 in households with children and $40,000 in those without children. About one third of these households’ income came from sources other than the wage and salary earnings of the less-educated worker.
  • Less-educated women tend to work in industries and occupations that have lower wages than the industries where men worked.  For example, women are more likely to work in health care and social assistance, while men are more likely to work in construction and transportation. For example, in 2010, health care and social assistance drew the largest number of less-educated women, where they earned, on average, about $14 per hour. At the same time, a sizable number of less-educated men worked in construction or in transportation/utilities, where they earned, on average, more than $19 per hour.
  • Even within industries and occupations, women are paid less. Among less-educated workers, women’s hourly wage rate was lower than men’s for 12 of the 14 industries analyzed and all 15 of the occupations.

Casey continued, “Women make up nearly half of the workforce and play an increasingly important role in family economic well-being. We must continue to push legislation that creates family sustaining jobs and promotes pay equity.”

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The report was requested by Rep. Maloney in 2010, when she chaired the JEC, and was released jointly with Senator Bob Casey, current Chairman of the JEC.

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