Pay gap isn’t closing

  • Associated Press
  • Thursday, June 3, 2004 9:00pm
  • Business

WASHINGTON – If a woman wants to make more money than a man, her job options are limited. She could clean up hazardous waste, or install telecommunications lines.

But not much else.

The Census Bureau compiled statistics on hundreds of job categories from its 2000 head count and found just five in which women typically earn as much as men.

Among hazardous material workers, women earn $1.09 for every dollar earned by man. It’s slightly more than a dollar for telecommunications line installer and repairers, and it was exactly dollar-for-dollar in three categories: meeting and convention planners; dining room or cafeteria workers; and construction trade helpers.

Each of these fields employs predominantly men, except for meeting planning.

Myra Strober, a Stanford University economics professor, said the report and other studies show, “If you are a young woman and want to go into an occupation to earn more money, you’ll want to do that in an occupation dominated by men.”

Indeed, in the field with the highest proportion of female workers – kindergarten and preschool teachers, nearly 98 percent women – men had median earnings of $22,000, $5,000 more than for women.

Among registered nurses, 91 percent were women, but their median income was $42,000. Men made $45,000, according to the Census Bureau study.

Carol Cooke, a spokeswoman for the American Nurses Association, said that may be partly due to more men choosing higher-paying nursing fields such as anesthesiology.

The report was based on 2000 census results that tracked 1999 income data for 505 job categories. However, the rankings of median earnings for women and men were based on a subset of about 400 fields that employed at least 10,000 full-time, year-round workers, including at least 1,000 men and 1,000 women.

Nationally, the median income for a woman working full-time was about $28,000, compared with $38,000 for a man. That means a woman earned less than 74 cents for every dollar earned by a man.

That’s an improvement from the early 1960s, when women earned about 59 cents for every dollar men earned. Data from a separate census survey that didn’t look at detailed occupations showed women earning 77 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2002.

Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, said the disparity is in part due to women who interrupt their careers to have kids at a time when men continue to climb the salary ladder. When these mothers return to work, they often can’t make up the loss in earnings, she said.

Discrimination also may be a factor, specifically against mothers, Strober said. “If you are a primary caretaker of children, it’s very difficult to live up to the kind of work requirements that exist for professional work,” she said.

Women have narrowed the disparity over time in part because more have college degrees, Hartmann said. Plus, in recent years, more professional mothers who don’t want to go to the office regularly are telecommuting. In the past, such women often left the workforce.

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