27 States Have Higher Gender Wage Gap than National Average

In 2011, the American Association of University Women, or AAUW, published The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, a comprehensive report on the state of the gender pay gap in the U.S. which is updated as new data is made available through the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Released this spring, the most recent edition reports that in 2015 women working full time in the United States were paid 80 percent of what men were paid. The gap widens for women of color, women with disabilities and transgender women.

The gender pay gap is a complex issue, and multiple factors contribute to it. Many try to explain the gap by pointing to outside factors, such as occupation, hours worked, marital status, GPA, and age. While these factors certainly play a role, researchers point to the “unexplained gap,” or the gap that continues to exist even when other variables are controlled.

A 2016 report estimated that the unexplained gap for the American workforce is 8 percent. Researchers have also found factors contributing to roughly 20 percent of the pay gap are influenced by gender discrimination and bias. A recent study found when women enter a previously male-dominated profession at a higher rate, average wages for that occupation decrease.[1]

Perhaps the most alarming fact to come out of the report is the slow rate of change. The AAUW estimates that if the rate of change in the pay gap stays the same as it has since 2001, women will not reach pay equity with men until 2152.

The wage gap doesn’t seem to be going away on its own, or at least not anytime soon. This slow rate of change means many women are looking to their legislators to tackle the issue. However, many, including senators who voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act in 2014, advocate against more legislation for equal pay, arguing that more red-tape can harm small businesses and that employers can and will fix the problem internally. Despite this, the rate of change reported by AAUW suggests that legislative action may be more effective. While currently only two states offer no equal pay protections at all, other states vary on the level of protections they offer.

The AAUW provides a state-by-state overview of equal pay policies, as well as recommendations for the most effective policies. Currently, 27 states have a higher wage gap than the 20 percent national average.


[1] Levanon, A., P. England, and P. Allison. "Occupational Feminization and Pay: Assessing Causal Dynamics Using 1950-2000 U.S. Census Data." Social Forces 88, no. 2 (2009): 865-91. Accessed May 31, 2017. doi:10.1353/sof.0.0264.