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New US Census data show smallest ever gap between working men and women

Quartz logo Quartz 9/12/2019 Brianna Holt
a person sitting at a table: Woman working in modern business office © Provided by Atlantic Media, Inc. Woman working in modern business office

Ever since women have been in the work force, they’ve been paid less than men. But now, data suggests the pay gap may finally be closing. According to newly-released data from the US Census, the difference in income between full-time working men and women fell to an all-time low in 2018.

While American men had a reported median income of $55,300, the median income for American women was about $45,100. This $10,200 difference is the smallest since the US Census started collecting these numbers in 1960.

In 1980 the average full-time woman worker made 60% of what a full-time man worker made. In 2018, she made 82%. This is mostly because men’s earning has plateaued over this period, while women’s earning continues to rise. In fact, when you look at how the median income for an American full-time has grown over the past nearly six decades, it’s almost entirely because women’s earnings have continued to rise.

a close up of a map © Provided by Atlantic Media, Inc.

To what do we owe women’s meteoric rise in earning? It’s a combination of forces. Changing societal norms mean women are getting married and having children later in life, which means they have more time to spend at work and progress their careers. New or updated federal and state laws penalize companies that try to pay women unfairly. And companies themselves have adopted policies, such as pay transparency and flexible work hours to ensure women can stay in the work force after they have children, that push towards parity. If these trends continue, we may very well see the pay gap close completely over the next few decades.

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