An Important Reminder That The Pay Gap Is Not Just A 'Women's Issue'

It's just simple economics.
The pay gap takes a toll on the entire economy.
The pay gap takes a toll on the entire economy.
Meriel Jane Waissman via Getty Images

There are a lot of ways critics like to explain away or trivialize the gender pay gap -- the sad fact that women make 79 cents for every dollar a man earns in the U.S.

One of the more popular strategies for minimizing the issue is to label it a "women's problem," Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said Tuesday at a forum on equal pay.

That is absurd, of course. Women make up half of the population -- even if the pay gap were solely “our problem,” it would be a huge freaking problem. Or think about it this way: If women were paid fairly for their work, essentially half of the country would get a raise.

"When we’re talking about unequal pay for women we’re talking about half the population," Valerie Wilson, a director at the Economic Policy Institute, told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. "Certainly if you raise pay for half the population, that’s clearly going to have an impact on the American economy."

If women participated in the workplace more equally to men, that could add an estimated $2 trillion to the U.S. economy over the next 10 years -- or about the equivalent of the economy of the state of Texas, according to a report out earlier this month from McKinsey and Company.

The report did not expressly consider the effects of closing the wage gap, but instead looked at three factors that help drive pay inequality between men and women: Women do not participate in the workforce at the same level as men do, and more women work part time and tend to work in lower-paying sectors.

Other factors behind the pay gap -- like gender bias -- weren’t considered.

McKinsey examined what would happen if you got more women into the labor force, into more full-time jobs and into higher-paying sectors.

“This isn’t just a gender issue, it’s GDP growth for the entire economy,” Kweilin Ellingrud, a partner with McKinsey and co-author of the report, told HuffPost.

Women are increasingly the breadwinners for their families, so when they earn more money that's incredibly significant.

U.S. Congress, Joint Economic Committee Report

Closing the pay gap would also be particularly meaningful for those Americans who are living in poverty.

The poverty rate for working women would be cut in half, to 3.9 percent, if we had equal pay, according to a 2014 report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

And the very high poverty rate for working single mothers would drop to 15 percent from 29 percent. That means children would be lifted out of poverty as well. Closing the pay gap would also have profound implications for older women, who are more likely than older men to live in poverty.

So the next time someone suggests that pay equality is a women's thing, you can set them straight.

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