White House study shows women's gains, but lagging pay - East Valley Tribune: Business

White House study shows women's gains, but lagging pay

Print
Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Saturday, March 12, 2011 1:00 pm

The last time the White House took a good look at the status of women in the country, John F. Kennedy was president and Eleanor Roosevelt chaired a commission on the issue.

Now, 48 years later, the White House has come back for another look in the report titled "Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-being."

The numbers show that while women are earning more college degrees than men and more women are working than ever before, they still don't make as much as men and they are more likely to experience poverty.

The reasons are complicated, of course, but the choice of career fields combined with family responsibilities continue to weigh heavily in the stories of women's lives.

What the statistics show is a huge societal shift for women over the past 40 years, something most Americans have seen and known, but that has not been quantified in this way. The Council on Women and Girls says the report was done to help policymakers set priorities on issues facing both women and families.

What happens to women has broad implications. In a nation of 308.7 million people, there are 4 million more females than males.

American women over the past four decades have become more educated, are delaying both getting married and having children (women now marry, on average, when they are 25 -- five years later than women in the 1950s) but they are still more likely than men to live in poverty.

Teenage pregnancies are down. Births to teens who are first-time mothers made up slightly more than 20 percent of all births to first-time mothers in 2007. In 1970, closer to 35 percent of first-time mothers were under 20 and just 4 percent of first-time mothers were in their 30s. By 2007, the older first-time mothers made up 22 percent of the group.

Women also are achieving at higher levels in education. In 1970, fewer than 2 percent of women aged 25 to 34 had two or more years of graduate studies compared to more than 5 percent of men in the same age group. In 2008, more than 10 percent of women in that age group had completed two years of graduate-level studies and about 7 percent of men had. Also, more doctoral degrees were granted to women then men.

But the sheer volume of degrees does not mean more money.

Differences in career fields, as well as differences in family responsibilities and how they are handled, factor into a broad comparison showing that among full-time wage and salary workers in 2009, women earned 80 cents for every dollar men earned. That is up significantly from 1970, when the figure stood at 62 cents.

More than four men earn bachelor's degrees in engineering and computer science for every woman who does. Men make up the majority of graduates with bachelor's degrees in mathematics and physical science, and men still earn more of the bachelor's degrees in business and management than women.

More women earn their bachelor's degree in biology than men, but women also well outnumber men for degrees in social and behavioral sciences, humanities, education and health -- all of them leading to lower-paying career fields.

There is still a lower percentage of women in the labor force than men. But, while women's participation rate climbed over the past six decades from 32 percent to 61 percent, men are slowly dropping. Sixty years ago, nearly 90 percent of men over age 20 were in the labor force. Now that is down to 75 percent.

The income gap is particularly noteworthy for women who head households of at least two people. Whereas married couples were pulling down more than $95,000 and male-headed households with no spouse were making more than $60,000, households headed by women had incomes just over $40,000 a year.

Poverty also affects more women than men: In 2009 nearly 11 percent of women over age 65 were poor, compared to 7 percent of men.

The report pulled together government figures from agencies as disparate as the National Center for Science and Engineering Studies, the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, as well as the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the National Center for Health Statistics and the Census Bureau.

  • Discuss

Attorney General Forum - Question 1

Attorney General candidates Republican Mark Brnovich and Democrat Felecia Rotellini debate at ...

The EVTI

East Valley Tribune Index of 20 local public companies

Your Az Jobs