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Equal Pay Day for Unmarried Women

April 2, 2019

This year on April 2, 2019, Equal Pay Day will spotlight the enduring gender wage gap. And 56 years after the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, this gap remains a powerful reality in women’s lives.  According to the most recent data on 2018 median wages available from the U.S. Census Bureau, for every $1.00 the average man earns, the average woman is paid only $0.80[1]. Earning disparities are even greater for women of color, with African American women making 68 cents on the dollar of an average man, and Native American women and Latinas making 62 cents.

Similar gaps are found when looking at unmarried women. For every $1.00 the average man earns, the average unmarried woman is paid only 73 cents. Furthermore, for every $1.00 the average married man is paid, the average unmarried woman is paid only 63 cents. The gaps widen when we look with racial groups. For example, unmarried Latinas make 50 cents to married men’s dollar.

Further, unmarried mothers continue to earn less than married mothers. Unmarried mothers with children under age 18 made 53 cents for every dollar that married men make, as opposed to married mothers with children under age 18 who make 75 cents. Unmarried mothers with children under age 6 make 49 cents for every married man’s dollar, whereas married mothers with children under age 6 make 82 cents.

The earnings of married men have been the same since 2016. Unmarried women have seen an uptick in that same period of roughly $3,000. Still, the gap persists. The marital status advantage is playing out as married women’s earnings have been rising.[2] This highlights the continual pattern of unmarried women, particularly those of color, being left behind, even in a growing and improving economy.

Looking to the 2020 elections, these data are an important reminder of the very real impact of the pay gap on the lives of the women who will be key turnout targets.

Personal Earnings

According to the most recent 2018 wage data from the Census Bureau (figure 1), women’s earnings were 80% of men’s: women’s median annual earnings in 2018 were $41,761, compared to men’s $52,000. The gap remains the same from 2017 when men’s earnings were $50,000 compared to women at $40,000. Most women of color face much wider disparities.

Figure 1: Personal Earnings Among Full-Time Workers, 2018[3]

Despite an improving economy, more jobs and lower unemployment, there are only a few signs of positive growth for earnings among women. White women still do better than African American women and Latinas. White women’s income dipped slightly from 90 cents on the dollar in 2017 to 87 cents in 2018, as did African American women: 70 cents to 68 cents.  Latinas’ income went from 60 cents to 62 cents from 2017 to 2018.  Native American women saw a slip from 70 cents to 62 cents.  Asian American women continue to experience the smallest pay gap relative to men at 96 cents on the dollar—a decrease from parity in 2017.

Marital Status

 The earnings gap is even wider when examining marital status. Unmarried women make far less than married men and lag behind married women. Figure 2 demonstrates that in 2018, unmarried women earned $38,000, compared to unmarried men who earned $40,000. Unmarried women also earned $8,000 less than married women ($46,000) and substantially less than married men ($60,000). This represents a very slight improvement from 2017, when unmarried women made $37,000 compared to married men’s $60,000.

Figure 2: Personal Earnings among Full-Time Workers by Marital Status, 2018[4]

Racial disparities in income are evident among unmarried women as Figure 3 highlights. Unmarried white women make 68 cents for every dollar a married man makes, while African American unmarried women make only 57 cents, unmarried Native American women make only 50 cents, and unmarried Latinas make only 50 cents.  Comparing this picture to 2017 data, married men remain at the same level, while each of the other groups of women saw some upward movement or stayed the same. Native American unmarried women’s earnings decreased from $35,000 to $30,000.

Figure 3: Personal Earnings Among Full-Time Workers by Marital Status and Race, 2018[5]

Looking just at working white women, marital status still makes a difference.  Married white working class women make 63 cents for every dollar a married man makes, while unmarried white working class women make only 55 cents.

Figure 4: Personal Earnings among Full-Time Workers by Marital Status, Race and Class, 2018[6]

Single Mothers Continue to Earn Less than Married Mothers

In 2018, single mothers earned just about HALF as much as married men; 53 cents to every dollar—up one cent from 2017. Unmarried women with younger children face a more significant pay gap, earning $30,513 less than a married man, and just 49 cents to every dollar.

On the other hand, married mothers with younger children saw an increase of $3,000 moving to 82 cents to every dollar for married men. This pay gap between married mothers with children and single mothers is notable and increasing.

Figure 5: Personal Earnings by Parental Status, 2018[7]

Without action, these continuing wage gaps have far-reaching effects that serve to stymie economic growth, make it harder for families to thrive, and will worsen the impending retirement savings crisis.


[1] These disparities have a variety of causes that we cannot control for with this data including education, industry, and comparable work.

[2] Based on median income earnings. U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Survey March 2018

[3] Income is calculated based on personal earnings of all people age 15 and older, who worked full time and year round.

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid.


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