Unequal wages cost SC women nearly $6.3 billion in income each year

  • Thursday, April 11, 2013

A new analysis released for Equal Pay Day reveals that South Carolina’s gender-based wage gap is punishing the state’s families and its economy. Women who are employed full time in South Carolina are paid just 76 cents for every dollar paid to men, amounting to a yearly gap in wages of $10,134. Collectively, this amounts to a loss of nearly $6.3 billion in income every year – money that could strengthen the state economy and provide critical support to the nearly 267,000 South Carolina households headed by women.

The analysis was conducted by the National Partnership for Women & Families, based on U.S. Census Bureau data. Details on South Carolina’s wage gap can be found here, and an analysis of the gap for African American women in the state can be found here. The National Partnership also analyzed the wage gap in the country’s 50 largest metropolitan areas.

“This new analysis illustrates the great harm to families, states and metropolitan areas caused by the pervasive gender-based wage gap,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “With most women serving as essential breadwinners for their families, the loss of this critical income has devastating consequences. Local, state and federal lawmakers should make ending gender discrimination in pay and promotions a much higher priority.”

According to the analysis, if the gap between men’s and women’s wages in South Carolina were eliminated, each full-time working woman in the state could afford to pay for food for 1.7 more years, buy 2,900-plus more gallons of gas, pay mortgage and utilities for nine more months or pay rent for 14 more months. These basic necessities would be particularly important for the 38.5 percent of South Carolina’s women-headed households currently below the poverty level.

Nationally, women who hold full-time jobs are paid just 77 cents for every dollar paid to men who hold full-time jobs. African American women and Latinas fare worse, being paid 64 cents and just 55 cents, respectively, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. This wage gap has been closing at a rate of less than half a cent per year since passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963. At that rate, it is estimated that women will not be paid equally for more than 40 years.

“Fifty years ago this year, the Equal Pay Act became law. Yet a punishing wage gap persists for women across the country,” Ness continued. “We must do more to close the wage gap, which is present in every part of the country and every industry, and affects workers with every level of education. Congress and the president can and must do more. We are urging Congress to prioritize passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act and urging President Obama to take executive action to ensure that federal contractors do not discriminate in pay. It is past time the country finally make gender-based pay discrimination a thing of the past.”

The Paycheck Fairness Act would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act, help to break harmful patterns of wage discrimination, and establish stronger workplace protections for women; it was reintroduced in Congress in January. President Obama has been a vocal supporter of the bill, calling on Congress to pass it in his State of the Union address in February. Since then, the National Partnership and other advocates have urged the president to issue an executive order on fair pay, which would set an example for the nation’s employers and help ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to support discriminatory pay practices.

The National Partnership’s research on the wage gap was released the day before Equal Pay Day – which marks how far into the new year women must work in order to catch up with what men were paid the year before. The analysis uses data from the U.S. Census Bureau and spans all 50 states and the country’s 50 largest metropolitan areas. Reports for each locality, along with state rankings are available at www.NationalPartnership.org/Gap.

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