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Lifetime Losses: The Career Wage Gap

The Center for American Progress Action Fund has just released a report on the career wage gap between men and women. The career wage gap is the estimated lost wages over a lifetime of work by women as a result of the gender wage gap (based on the median wages of all full-time working men and women from the 2007 American Community Survey). The report provides national estimates as well as estimates and rankings on a state-by-state basis.

For the U.S., the Center found that the average full-time female worker loses approximately $434,000 in wages over a 40-year period as a direct result of the gender pay gap. Factoring in education level, the Center estimates the career wage gap as follows:

  • Bachelor's degree or higher - $713,000
  • Some college - $452,000
  • High school diploma - $392,000
  • Less than high school - $270,000
In the state rankings, Ohio falls somewhere in the middle; the overall career wage gap is estimated at $486,000. For different educational levels, the Center estimated the following for our state:
  • Bachelor's degree or higher - $657,000
  • Some college - $502,000
  • High school diploma - $449,000
The summary report, which also provides calculations based on occupations, is available at the Center's website. There's also an interactive map available that allows you to pick states for comparisons.

Note: Some contend that the gender wage gap is "feminist fiction" (Independent Women's Forum, 2005), that the differences come from the "choices" women make regarding the occupations they select and the time away from they incur as a result of having a family. Yet 2003 research by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found even after accounting for those choices, women still earned only 80 percent of what men earned in the same period.

You may notice the use of quotes around the word "choices" above. It's really time to reframe our thinking around the idea that women have a "choice." Joan Williams, author of Unbending Gender:Why Work and Family Life Conflict and What To Do About It, 1066 Foundation Chair, Distinguished Professor of Law and Founding Director of the Center for WorkLife Law at University of California, Hastings College of the Law questions the use of the word "choice," saying that "many people assume that women, couples, and families make voluntary choices about work and family that result in a range of consequences. Oftentimes, women bear the brunt of these so-called choices that actually reflect some deep-seated notions about the ideal worker and gender ideologies about caregiving. Values at home, in the workplace, and in society constrain choices of careers or employment options that, in turn, result in reduced earnings or limited opportunities for career advancement.” Williams stresses, “This is not ‘choice.’ People who do not conform to our expectations for the ideal worker—men as well as women—are disadvantaged. We need to recognize that workplaces that define their ideal as someone who works full-time full-force for forty years, taking no time off for family care, may be engaging in gender discrimination."

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Reader Comments (1)

With the economy being in turmoil it is hard to find a job. I was laid off from my job that I had been employed with for 3 years. The job wasn't my dream but it paid the bills and when I was let go I was hit hard. After countless job searches on sites I got frustrated. My friend told me about this website that can give you career advice. I checked it out and started trying to figure out what I was best at and what job would make me happy. http://www.CareerSuccessions.com enabled me to find a great job!

July 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSandy Swiss

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