Sunday, May 8, 2011

77 cents: Recession spreads pay-gap pain

Chart from Center for American Progress report,"Not Working:
Unemployment Among Married Couples" (click to enlarge)

The 2007-09 Great Recession often has been referred to as a "mancession" due to the cutbacks and job losses seen in industries populated by men.

But now comes word that we all soon could be paying a price for the wage gap that long has plagued women in the workplace because the recession turned them into the prime breadwinner in many families.

Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C., has published a paper, "Not Working: Unemployment Among Married Couples," that makes just that point:

"With so many wives — and women more generally — supporting families, there could not be a more important time to ensure that women are paid fairly. The typical woman earns an average of 77 cents on the male dollar, and so when a husband loses his job the family suffers since her earnings are typically lower than his."

Boushey also notes that older couples are particularly vulnerable, given the man's longevity on the job (= higher wages) and the likelihood the woman took time off to raise children (= lower wages). Add to that the hit the couple's nest egg took during the recession as the financial markets skidded and the equity they may have lost in their house as the bottom dropped out of the real estate market. The resulting outlook for retirement isn't pretty, and there could be implications for Social Security in the future.

Plus, as data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has been showing month after month, older workers laid off in the recession are finding it harder to get back into the job market. As of January 2010, Boushey says, that included two-thirds of unemployed men and women aged 55 to 64 vs. just 50 percent of men and 40 percent of women aged 35 to 44.

Boushey's conclusion? "Addressing pay equity should be a key priority as we address the recession."

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