Wage gap for women persists, despite some progress

Massachusetts was the first state to adopt an equal pay law, but pay for men and women remains far from equal, nearly 70 years after the law passed. Women in Massachusetts earn more than those in all but two states — Maryland and New Jersey — yet still make far less than men, according to a new report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a Washington think tank.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, which released its pay study this month, calculated that Massachusetts women with full-time jobs make about 78 percent of what men with full-time jobs earn. Twenty other states have smaller differences.
The disparity affects females at all income levels. But women in professional and managerial occupations tend to feel greater gender pay differences than those in working-class jobs, said Randy Albelda, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Lower-wage workers, she said, don’t get the discretionary bonuses or large raises that come with higher-paying jobs and widen the difference in pay.

Men in Massachusetts, with a median pay of $60,000, tie for the top-ranking state with Connecticut and New Jersey. Massachusetts women who work full-time make a median yearly income of $47,000. Nationally, women earned a median annual pay of $37,000, or about 78 percent of the $47,000 earned by men. (Median figures, while not able to capture outlier cases, often are used to analyze pay gaps.)

A separate report, written by a University of Massachusetts Amherst professor and released this month by centrist think tank Third Way, found women sustain a wage penalty of about 4 percent when they have a child; men end up with a 6 percent bonus. The study attributed this to several factors, including perceptions that mothers get preoccupied with a baby and fathers become more trustworthy.

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