Despite Ivanka Trump’s tweets, Instagram posts and campaign promises about equal pay for women, the gender pay gap didn’t budge during her father’s first year in office, according to census data released Wednesday.
On average, women working full-time made just 80 percent of men’s earnings in 2017, unchanged from the previous year, according to the data. Put another way: Women earn 80 cents for every dollar men take home. That drops precipitously for African-American, Hispanic and Native American women, who face the double-whammy of race and gender discrimination.
The wage gap didn’t budge because incomes didn’t move much for Americans regardless of gender. In fact, women’s and men’s individual earnings fell last year by 1.1 percent, according to the census data.
The news of declining individual incomes is somewhat surprising, since the economy is generally considered to be in good shape, with low unemployment and a booming stock market.
Americans’ average household incomes did tick up slightly, by 1.8 percent. But that could be a sign that more members of a family are working longer hours ― not that anyone’s individual income has risen, noted Elise Gould, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute.
That’s not great news. “You don’t necessarily increase your living standards by having to work a lot more,” she said.
The wage gap can be explained by a multitude of factors, most rooted in deeply ingrained sexism. From a young age, girls are steered into lower-paying occupations. At the same time, occupations that attract increasing numbers of women often see wages decline. Even when women do manage to break into high-paying, male-dominated fields, they face an uphill battle, as Gould herself explained in a 2016 paper.
It might also be startling that the gender pay gap isn’t moving because there’s been no shortage of pay inequity headlines, including outcry from Hollywood and the sports world, over the past year or so.
The gulf between men and women’s earnings is closing at a fairly glacial pace. Women earned 77 cents for every dollar men made in 2008, at the start of Barack Obama’s presidency, and that didn’t move during his administration’s first year.
And that’s despite Obama’s real efforts ― the first bill he signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and he was an outspoken advocate for equal pay. Yet, after eight years, the needle had only ticked up 3 percentage points.
President Donald Trump’s administration’s interest in equal pay borders on downright hostility.
Indeed, with Ivanka Trump’s blessing last year, the White House nixed an Obama-era proposal that would have forced large companies to report pay data broken down by gender and race, a measure that would’ve given regulators a greater ability to root out discrimination.
“If we don’t close this wage-gap, a woman starting her first job today stands to be shortchanged hundreds of thousands of dollars over a 40-year career—and some women of color will lose more than a million,” said Emily Martin, a vice president at the National Women’s Law Center, in a statement.
“But instead of fighting for equal pay, the Trump Administration is working to help corporate employers keep pay discrimination under wrap.”