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Just How Much Would Closing the Gender Wage Gap Reduce Women’s Poverty?

Just How Much Would Closing the Gender Wage Gap Reduce Women’s Poverty?

Written by Bryce Covert

Closing the gap in earnings between men and women would cut the poverty rate in half for working women, according to a new report from Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress.

Women still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, on average, a figure that hasn’t significantly changed in five years. For the report, economists Heidi Hartmann and Jeffrey Hayes of the Institute for Policy Research calculated that paying women who work full time, year round the same as men would boost their incomes by $6,250 a year on average. That extra money would cut their poverty rate in half, raising 3 million of the nearly 6 million working women who live below the poverty line above it. The extra income would also have a big impact on the economy as a whole, boosting GDP by 2.9 percent, or $450 billion.

The report notes that one in three women in the country either live in poverty or are “teetering on its brink,” coming to 42 million in total who struggle financially. In a poll conducted for the report, 90 percent of these women strongly favored addressing the gender wage gap, and the issue also got support from nearly three-quarters of the respondents overall.

But how to do it? Nearly 90 percent of the women struggling to get by said that paid sick days would be “very useful” to them, and it was in fact that number one policy they felt would give them a leg up, “even more than an increase in wages or benefits,” the report notes. But 40 percent of private sector workers don’t have access to paid time off when they or their loved ones fall sick given that the country doesn’t guarantee paid leave. (Although there are seven laws on the city and state level that do just that.)

Women living on the brink also supported expanding access to affordable child care. More than 7.5 million families with children under age 6 live on the financial brink, including four out of every five single mothers with young children. But when they’re able to work full time, year round, they’re twice as likely to have incomes that lift them out of that precarious situation. And it would impact the wage gap, given that child care assistance is associated with increased employment and higher earnings for these mothers. Expanding access to high-quality, affordable child care got support from nearly 80 percent of the poll’s respondents.

Paid family leave would also help increase women’s ability to stay employed and therefore boost their wages. But only about 12 percent of workers have access to it through their employers, and the country only guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid time off for those who work at companies with 50 or more employees. The FAMILY Act, recently introduced in Congress, would create a national system in which workers could pay into a paid family leave program through Social Security, costing them just about $1.50 a week. Such a plan garnered 85 percent of women’s support and 81 percent of men’s in the report’s polling.

The report also suggests increasing the minimum wage, given that women are two-thirds of the country’s minimum wage earners, strengthening public programs like food stamps, Medicaid, the Earned Income Tax Credit and child care assistance, and increasing women’s access to higher education and paths into high-paying fields.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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10:04AM PDT on May 18, 2014

Thank you

3:24AM PST on Jan 29, 2014

To Betty K......Equal pay for Equal work IS a LAW....However employers just don't follow it and that is so wide spread it's not enforceable.Actually been a Law for years....and the very 1st Bill Pres. Obama Signed into law is "The Lilly Leadbetter " Law.

3:18AM PST on Jan 29, 2014

Jan. 29th.......After The State of The Union Address in which Pres. Obama commented on the income gap between Men & women's salaries....this report is more pertinent....(if that is possible) It is well past time for this to be corrected. Equal pay for equal work, regardless of sex or age.Equal MEANS Equal....in every sense of the word and in every context....ie...Equal Rights...for All.

8:08AM PST on Jan 26, 2014

Steve..thank you..a very good link
To everyone who has ever repeated the lie about the fallacy of the gender wage gap read the piece linked by Steve.
The feminist movement deliberately misuses statistics to misinform people.
We all should be taught how statistics can be misused to create false realities so we dont fall for these types of lies.
And it is useless to talk about what happened decades ago to justify the argument that is made in the present about a wage gap.
Also check on youtube videos by Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell for insights into the wage gap.
Fact: all things being equal..that is..hours worked and job choice and years at a job...women often make more than men.
And note..if the reality is that having children is the main cause of women making less than men, and not because of any kind of discrimination, remember having children is mostly by choice in North America today..women do not have to have children...that is a choice...live with those choices and dont blame men.

3:35AM PST on Jan 21, 2014

Probably tremendously!

7:39AM PST on Jan 19, 2014

As it's always been, the gender 'wage gap" is a myth promoted by so-called "feminists" (who have no clue what real feminism entails).

Here is one link (among very, very many): http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-gender-pay-gap-is-a-complete-myth/

4:04AM PST on Jan 18, 2014

Thank you for the information.

2:28AM PST on Jan 18, 2014

Can this really help?

9:40PM PST on Jan 17, 2014

Equal pay for equal work should be the law.

9:23PM PST on Jan 17, 2014

ty

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