The gender wage gap in the United States still stands at 77 cents paid to women for every dollar a man makes, which barely budged over the past decade and actually widened last year. One way to start closing that gap would be to raise the federal minimum wage, a new report from the National Women Law Center finds.
The organization compared each state’s gender wage gap with whether it has a higher minimum wage than the federal floor of $7.25 (a figure that hasn’t been raised in three years). It found that of the ten states with the widest gaps, only two had a higher minimum wage. Meanwhile, among the ten states with the narrowest gaps, seven had instituted a higher wage floor. Taken together, in all the states that have a higher minimum wage the average wage gap is three cents smaller than in the rest.
The connection between a low minimum wage and a high gender wage gap likely owes to the fact that women dominate those jobs. They make up two-thirds of minimum wage workers in the U.S. They are the majority of food service and clothing store workers, and they also hold a large number of jobs as cashiers, housekeepers, and home health aids, all low-wage jobs.
Women also are two-thirds of the country’s waitstaff and 70 percent of restaurant workers, which make an even lower minimum wage. The floor for tipped workers is just $2.13 an hour, which hasn’t risen in 20 years.
Women make less than men in virtually every job, however, including nearly all of the 534 occupations tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over her career, a woman will lose more than $430,000, enough to feed a family of four for 37 years. Beyond raising the minimum wage, Congress could also consider passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would allow all employees to discuss salaries and impose stronger penalties for employers who discriminate.