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Politics of the Gender Wage Gap: Facts

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It's been five decades since John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, which aims to abolish wage disparity based on gender. Yet women still only earn an average of 78 cents to every dollar earned by men. When women become mothers—particularly single mothers—the gap grows even wider.

U.S. policies to support working women are woefully behind compared to other developed countries, yet policies have an enormous impact on the wage gap. With more women in the workforce than ever before—and a woman running for the highest office—the gender wage gap is could become a central issue in the general election.

Here are the wage gap facts you need to know:

The wage gap may begin as early as childhood. An analysis of a website that tracks children's allowances by parents shows that, on average, boys are paid 15 percent more than girls for doing the same chores.

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Women make up almost of half (47 percent) of the U.S. labor force today. However, three-quarters of those jobs are in the lowest-wage occupations.

Women of color make up 37 percent of lowest-wage workers, despite being just 16 percent of the workforce.

Hispanic or Latina women are paid 89 percent of what Hispanic or Latino men are paid, and 53 percent of what white men are paid. African American women are paid 89 percent of what African American men are paid, and 64 percent of what white men are paid.

Research from the National Women's Law Center found that the gender pay gap for unionized workers is half the size of that among non-unionized workers. It also found that unionized women earn, on average, $200 a week more than non-unionized women.

Women would need to work anywhere from 70 additional days to seven months more per year to catch up to men.

More education leads to higher salaries, and today women are earning more college degrees than ever. But men earn more than women at every educational level.

A Columbia University study found that the gender pay gap may increase depression and anxiety in women.

Alarmingly, a Cornell University, reported in the New York Times found that as women enter traditionally male dominated fields, the pay drops for all.

Millennial women think they pay gap is a myth. More than half of the 10,000 millennial women surveyed by Levo, the New York City-based career platform, said they didn't feel the wage gap applied to them.

Married moms tend to outearn their single mom counterparts, by nearly a factor of four.

Married men earn the most, with weekly earnings an average of $985. Married women earn an average $768 per week.

Fifty percent of men negotiate their salaries, compared to 7 percent of women. A 2010 study found that women ask for an average of $7,000 less than men when negotiating.

Men expect to make more than women. A study from researchers at Columbia University put this expectation gap down to two factors: overconfidence and competitiveness. According to their research, men have a higher level of competitiveness and are twice as likely as women to overestimate their true ability. They calculate that these two factors account for 18 percent of the wage gap.

Working fathers tend to get an average 6-percent salary boost when they have children, compared with mothers, whose salaries decrease an average 4 percent for each child.

A Columbia University study found that the gender pay gap may increase depression and anxiety in women.

The wage gap grows larger as women age, with women earning 90 percent of what men make until age 35, after which they are paid 75 to 80 percent of what men are paid.

The Act would make it more difficult for companies to pay male workers more than female workers—an important tool in addressing the gender wage gap.

Researchers have estimated that as much as 10 to 40 percent of the wage gap cannot be explained even when taking into account gendered differences between the occupations, educations and work histories of men and women.

Performance doesn't matter, even in high-profile careers. In the 2015 World Cup, the U.S. women's soccer team won the whole championship, while the U.S. men's team was knocked out in the first round. The women's team won prize money of $2 million, but the men's received $8 million—despite being eliminated at the first hurdle.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would reduce pay secrecy and give women better tools to address pay discrimination. The Act would make it more difficult for companies to pay male workers more than female workers—an important tool in addressing the gender wage gap.

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Several states have passed the Equal Rights Amendment to ensure that women are treated equally and fairly in all areas of society, including the workforce. But the ERA has not received the ratification required to become law.

If we continue to address the gender wage gap at the same slow pace we are currently going, women won't achieve gender parity at work until 2095—when a majority (if not all!) of today's workforce will be retire, mostly permanently.

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