A Critical Juncture for Health: Heidi Hartmann and Will Dow Discuss New P4A Research Hub on Work-Family-Supports

Read the original post at policiesforaction.org

Heidi Hartmann and Will Dow are the codirectors of P4A’s new Research Hub at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) and the University of California, Berkeley. The hub will focus on income enhancement and workplace policies that help working parents, especially those struggling to make ends meet, to have the time and financial resources to protect and invest in their family’s health. We sat down with them to learn more about their research portfolio and why it matters for policymakers, advocates, and community leaders.

Will and Heidi, can you tell us about how you are collaborating to study the connections between income and workplace policies and the health and well-being of families with children?

HEIDI: This is an area we’ve been working in for 30 years, and we’re very excited to look more closely at the health effects. Both IWPR and the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) at UC Berkeley attack a broad range of policies in our research, and we’re interested in every aspect of social policy. Because of the aging population, because of the diversity of our population, we want to learn what works and with whom. We all want to improve health care and reduce costs. That would allow our nation to spend money on other things we also want: housing, education, income assistance, green parks, art, culture.

As a country, we’re facing a critical juncture in these types of policies. And the health piece is very exciting – it’s a huge motivator and mobilizer for families and workers. It’s the dominant issue in this election cycle. Voters care about it. Therefore, policymakers care about it.

WILL: At Berkeley, we have a multidisciplinary set of faculty at the frontiers of economics, sociology, public policy, and public health and they are at the frontier of exploring the nexus between health and employment. As someone in public health, we care about where people live, play and work. We spend so much of our day at work – it’s crucial to focus on the employment piece of the puzzle.

Having IWPR as the partner in this really extends what we could possibly think about doing. They have such a good track record of working with the policy community and working on external communications—turning the basic research into action-oriented research briefs and events. It extends what we can do, and brings it to the policy sphere so much more quickly and robustly.

Your hub will also work closely with Ascend at The Aspen Institute. Can you tell us more about this partnership and why it’s important?

HEIDIAscend at the Aspen Institute represents a very important partner for practice and policy activities. They’re also very experienced in the business of translating research into accessible language for use by policymakers and the advocacy community. Ascend will help us frame all the policy issues we’re working on, and help narrow down the rapid response projects we’ll be doing.

What kinds of policies will you be examining? What are some big questions you’re hoping to help answer?

HEIDI: The issue of care—not having enough caregivers, not doing enough to make sure our entire population is being cared for (especially those who cannot care for themselves)—becomes increasingly urgent every day. We’re also the only country in the world without paid family leave, and we’re the only advanced country in the world without a system of paid sick leave. You can get the flu, you can have cancer, you can trip on the sidewalk—whatever happens to you, you could lose your income. We’re handicapped because we don’t have policies like paid family leave and help with families’ childcare costs.

This type of project is urgently needed now, partly because we have cut back on social supports for workers, families and individuals, and also because we’re just not keeping up with other countries around the world. This project allows us to get into depth on these issues, and produce actionable, reliable information that we hope all policymakers are looking for and will listen to.

One of our contributions to the whole work-family policy area is the development of a very sophisticated simulation model that can estimate the costs of designing a paid family leave program.  If your state, or city, or county (or nation) doesn’t have a paid family leave program, or has one that can be improved upon, by using the equations in the model, we can tell you a lot about any proposal you have – how much it would cost to provide the benefits, who would get these benefits, and how those benefits would be distributed.

WILL: In developing our projects, we were looking for salient gaps in what other people have been doing. Take the minimum wage. There’s been such a large literature on minimum wage, but not the effects on health — there’s starting to be work on this, but it is really still in its infancy. The effects of minimum wage on employment have been so controversial, and I think for the credibility of moving this into the policy sphere, we have to have work which is using the most reliable methods so we can get broad-based academic buy-in. That allows us to have a much more robust and I think, ultimately, longer-term policy impact on this field.

People say we don’t need to wait for the research literature to establish with great certainty what these results are. But if we don’t establish it in a strong way, it risks undermining the credibility of the policy efforts and slows down those efforts.

Is income always the mediating factor to better health and well-being? Or is it more complicated than that?

WILL: For low-income families, an increase in income of a few thousand dollars can actually be very significant in terms of the well-being of their kids. But having higher wages can also enable more flexibility on the part of the family – not to have to work two jobs, or to choose jobs that have a more family friendly component to them (rather than only seeking the highest-wage job). So, half of our hub projects are related to enhancing family incomes, and the other half are related to workplace regulation, including regulations around family friendly work schedules and paid family leave.

Many working caregivers simply can’t afford to take leave because they can’t pay their bills if their income goes down. What paid leave can do is replace the income they would have received while they were working and allow them to spend time with their kids at critical times in the life course. And that’s where we have a great deal of evidence – that spending time with kids in these early points in their childhoods can have permanent, lifetime benefits. What we’re trying to understand now is what are the types of leave policies that are actually influential in allowing more people to take that leave time and spend that time with their kids.

Most of these policies vary greatly from one state to another. Why study state-level policies, especially now?

WILL: Many stakeholders would like to see more robust federal policies in this arena. In the current policy environment, it doesn’t look like that’s likely in the short run. But what we can do right now is take advantage of the fact that we have such active experimentation at the sub-federal level. Much of this is going on at the state level, and at the level of localities, and the level of employers as well. We want to learn from all this and cross-fertilize ideas – not only from one state to another, but across states, municipalities, and employers –  helping each understand what might actually be a win-win for them to start doing proactively without waiting for federal legislation.

HEIDI: Using our simulation model we have estimated the costs and benefits of different policy options for paid leave programs at all governmental levels. We’ve also extended these findings to national programs that test many different policy parameters—how much does it cost to expand eligibility, for example.  Being a member of the P4A team and working with Will and others at Berkeley allows us to add the health impacts of these policy changes to our already comprehensive simulation model.

Your research hub will also produce some “rapid response” projects. Can you tell us more about these?

WILL: Our rapid response projects are designed to take strong research that’s already completed, and that with some additional modeling and analysis can fairly quickly lead to tailored new evidence and new knowledge that would be particularly beneficial for very specific policy conversations going on now or that we know are upcoming.

HEIDI: We built a large network of partners into our project to make sure that our work is accessible and focused on the issues that people care about. We also want to open it up to everyone working in the area—policymakers, voters, other researchers, public interest groups—to give us suggestions for issues and topics they’re interested in, and how and when they’d like to see those topics develop.

Thank you, Will and Heidi! We’re so excited to have you on board!

Have an idea for a rapid response project? Send us an email at policies4action@urban.org.

A Day with Renewed Importance for all Workers

A Day with Renewed Importance for all Workers

Dear IWPR Supporters and Colleagues,

Today, we celebrate the contributions, achievements, and resilience of working Americans.

Labor Day began as a way for workers to fight for the eight-hour day, the five-day work week, and the many other labor rights and protections we often take for granted. Today, we are fighting—and more and more refighting—battles for higher wages, quality health insurance, and a secure retirement.

The continued struggle to recognize the value, contributions, and dignity of every worker is why I’m proud to be a part of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and its work to assist workers and their representatives with policy analysis that advances all workers.

One of the fastest growing occupations is care work for children and elders, an industry where demand will continue to grow as the Baby Boomer generation ages.  It is also an industry dominated by women. Overall, however, care workers have experienced stagnant, or in many cases declining, wages over the past decade. A new report published by IWPR showed that the number of care workers grew 19 percent from 2005 to 2015. Care workers are predominantly female and although the occupations have become more diverse over the past decade, the percentage of care workers who are living at or near poverty levels remained relatively unchanged at 47%.

Unions are showing their highest support in 15 years, but a recent ruling from the Supreme Court (the Janus vs. AFSCME ruling) has the potential to derail much of the progress that unions have made in fighting for worker’s rights—although the first response from union members makes me think that they are sticking with their unions. IWPR President Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., had this to say on the decision: “Unions play an essential role in boosting the quality of jobs around the country and the research shows that women and people of color especially benefit from the collective bargaining power unions provide. Labor unions have been at the forefront of the fight for fair pay and helped secure labor standards that are cornerstones of the American workplace, including the 40-hour work week, a national minimum wage, premium pay for overtime, health insurance, and family and medical leave.” The evidence is clear, the collective bargaining power of unions improves conditions for all workers, closes the gender wage gap, and promotes equal pay for women. Weakening unions threatens the improvements we have won.

It is with renewed importance that we take time to reflect on the contributions and struggles of workers then and now. With your support IWPR can continue to provide clear, fact-based research that enables activists, policymakers, the media, and you to fight for your rights at work.

I ask you for your support to advance this essential research by making a donation to IWPR today in honor of the countless women workers around the world.


Lorretta Johnson, Chair, IWPR Board of Directors
Secretary-Treasurer, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research conducts and communicates research to inspire public dialogue, shape policy, and improve the lives and opportunities of women of diverse backgrounds, circumstances, and experiences.

Promising Community College Practices for Student Parent Success

Promising Community College Practices for Student Parent Success

More than 2 million community college students in the United States are parents of children under 18. Student parents benefit from large earnings gains once earning their degree; community colleges can support their graduation by providing services to help balance family and school responsibilities.

By Rachel Karp and Lindsey Reichlin Cruse 

Originally posted on ACCT Now: Perspectives

More than 2 million community college students in the United States are parents of children under 18. Seventy percent of these parents are mothers, and many of these mothers are women of color.

The majority of student parents live in or near poverty, making them especially likely to benefit from the earning gains experienced by college graduates. These benefits are especially important for single mother students, who make up over half of all student mothers. New researchfrom the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) finds that, on average, single mothers with AA degrees who work full-time, year-round, earn $8,000 more each year, and over $330,000 more over their lifetimes, than they would have with only a high school diploma. These increased earnings lead to a substantial return to single mothers’ investment in community college: for every $1 a single mother graduate spends on earning an associate degree, her family gets back $16.45.

Despite the real benefits associated with college attainment, only 28 percent of first-time, beginning student parents in community college graduate with a degree or certificate within six years of enrollment.

Student parents face several challenges that make it hard for them to graduate. They face numerous demands on their time, which include caring for children and often, holding a job, in addition to attending classes and completing coursework. Two-thirds of student parents in community college work, which research has shown can disrupt degree completion. Caregiving takes up substantial time as well, with roughly a quarter of women in community college reporting that they spend 30 hours or more each week providing care to dependents, and more than four in ten who live with dependents saying that their care obligations are likely to cause them to drop out of school. Affordable, reliable child care is essential to helping student parents balance these time demands, but quality care can be expensive, and the number of community colleges with on-campus child care has declined as the number of student parents in community college has increased.

What can community colleges do to help their student parents persist and graduate?

1) Establish campus programs and collaborate with community service providers to give student parents access to resources they need to stay in school.

The Family Resource Center (FRC) at Los Angeles Valley College (LAVC) works with college and community groups to offer services such as after-school child care; infant and toddler play groups; diapers, baby wipes, and formula; academic counseling; and food and housing assistance. FRC also provides holistic family supports to students enrolled in the college’s workforce training academies through its Strengthening Working Families program.

2) Partner with the local early care and education community to help student parents find child care that meets their needs.

At Lane Community College in Oregon, student parents can find child care through a free referral service provided on-campus. Quality Care Connections helps parents identify child care options, in addition to providing a variety of free parenting supports and resources for free over thephone, through its statewide 211 Child Care Referral phone line,online, and in-person on campus.

3) Collect data on students’ parent status to better understand parents’ college needs and outcomes.

Monroe Community College (MCC) in New York collects data on parent status through a survey conducted every semester during course registration. MCC matches those data with data from its campus child care center, allowing for a recent IWPR analysis, which found that use of the center increased MCC student parents’ likelihood of returning to school the following year. The analysis also found that using the center more than tripled student parents’ chances of on-time graduation.

4) Promote federal, state, and local strategies to improve the availability of affordable child care.

Community college leaders can share information with policymakers on students’ need for child care and their experiences with programs like the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program, the only source of federal funding that supports low-income college students’ access to child care. They can also provide expert guidance to policymakers on how removing work requirements and other restrictions would expand students’ access to child care assistance, which can help low-income parents pay for child care while pursuing postsecondary education.

Comment on 2020 Census Federal Register Notice

On August 7, IWPR President and CEO Heidi Hartmann submitted a comment to the U.S. Department of Commerce regarding the proposal to include an untested citizenship question on the 2020 Census:

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) writes to express its concern over proposed changes to the 2020 Census. IWPR conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women, promote public dialog, and strengthen families, communities, and societies.

IWPR relies on accurate and timely data from the federal statistical agencies, including the Census Bureau, for research across our program areas. A comprehensive, accurate decennial Census provides the primary source of information on the U.S. population and is the foundation on which many other data are based for gauging coverage, constructing population weights, and providing other inputs across the federal statistical system. As a result, we share a profound commitment with other census stakeholders to ensuring full public participation in the decennial Census. We not only rely directly on the decennial Census itself in our work, but we also rely on all the other federal and private data systems that use the decennial Census to ensure the accuracy of their data collection, sampling frames, population weights, and so on.

We are concerned that including an untested citizenship question on the 2020 Census will discourage participation in the decennial Census—especially among vulnerable, hard-to-count populations. Asking households to enumerate their members by an untested question designed to collect citizenship status is very likely to be perceived as a risk by many respondents, even those in the U.S. with proper visas/documentation, and will certainly increase the burden of response, suppress response rates, and reduce overall data quality. These negative outcomes are more likely to occur in urban areas that attract a greater number of single mothers (who give birth to majority of first-time births), immigrants, and racial minorities, and other vulnerable minorities, for example adherents of the muslin religions. The impact will be quite large when one considers that many families have members of different citizenship statuses.

Read the full comment on IWPR.org.

Research News Roundup – June 2018


Campus Child Care Critical in Raising Single Mothers’ Graduation Rates

By Pearl Stewart || 6.6.2018

Access to campus child care is a key factor in determining if single mothers in college will graduate within six years, according to the latest in a series of reports released Wednesday by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Just 8 percent of single mothers who enroll in college graduate with an associate or bachelor’s degree within six years, compared to 49 percent of women students who are not mothers, stated the report, “Investing in Single Mothers’ Higher Education: Costs and Benefits to Individuals, Families, and Society.” In addition, the vast majority, 89 percent, of single student mothers have low incomes and no money of their own or from their families to cover college expenses.

Citing: Investing in Single Mothers’ Higher Education: Costs and Benefits to Individuals, Families, and Society by Barbara Gault, Jessica Milli, and Lindsey Reichlin Cruse at Institute for Women’s Policy Research, June 2018

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Even in the gig economy, women earn less than men

By Lydia DePillis |  | 7.5.2018

There have been a lot of headlines about the gender wage gap among full-time wage and salary workers. Researchers have found that pay disparities persist due to a combination of women working in lower-paid occupations, taking time off to have kids and discrimination. But what about the world of online platforms, like Lyft and Instacart, where wages are often set equally for a given task and the customer doesn’t see the gender of the worker before the job is booked? Turns out there’s a gender wage gap there, too. A study released last week by economists from Stanford University using data from more than a million Uber drivers uncovered a 7% hourly earnings gap between men and women on the ride-sharing platform.

Citing: The Gender Earnings Gap in the Gig Economy: Evidence from Over A Million Rideshare Drivers by Cody Cook, Rebecca Diamond, Jonathan Hall, John A. List, and Paul Oyer at National Bureau of Economic Research, June 2018

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The gender pay gap applies to Uber drivers too

By Quentin Fottrell and Kari Paul |  | 6.26.2018

Men make more than women in their side hustles. Women Uber drivers earn 93 cents on the dollar compared to men, according to a study distributed Monday by the National Bureau of Economic Research. “The uniqueness of our data — knowing exactly the production and compensation functions — permits us to completely unpack the underlying determinants of the gender earnings gap,” the researchers wrote. The authors found that the gender gap is caused by three factors: How long they’ve been driving on the platform, preferences over where/when to work and driving speed. The authors include economists from the Graduate School of Business and Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research at Stanford University, and Jonathan Hall, chief economist and director of public policy at Uber.

Citing: The Gender Earnings Gap in the Gig Economy: Evidence from Over A Million Rideshare Drivers by Cody Cook, Rebecca Diamond, Jonathan Hall, John A. List, and Paul Oyer at National Bureau of Economic Research, June 2018

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Without Census Recognition, LGBT Pay Gap, Inequalities Go Unnoticed

By Eric Tegethoff |  | 6.11.2018

The U.S. Census provides important information on communities, but it won’t be counting the number of LGBTQ people in 2020 – and that’s a problem, according to a new report. The Census Bureau will count same-sex marriages, as it has in the past. But the Bureau rescinded a question that would have asked people about their sexual orientation and gender identity. Matthew Caruchet, author of the Economic Opportunity Institute report, said the question could have provided important information on an area with little research: the LGBT pay gap. He compared this issue to the women’s pay gap, which can draw on decades of census data.

Citing: The Gay Pay Gap in Washington or Impacts of Misogyny on LGBT Wages, by Matthew Caruchet at Economic Opportunity Institute, June 2018

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What gig economy? Fewer working as freelancers, contractors than believed

By Paul Davidson |  | 6.7.2018

So you think an ever-growing share of American workers are Uber drivers or freelancers whose offices are tables at Starbucks? Think again. A Labor Department report Thursday casts doubt on the conventional wisdom that the workforce is shifting from traditional full-time employees to independent contractors, temporary workers and other contingent laborers. About 16 million Americans, or 10.4% of the workforce, were contingent workers or had other alternative work arrangements in May 2017, according to the report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s surprisingly below the 10.9% of the workers in that category in 2005.

Citing: Contingent and Alternative Employment Arrangements Summary, by Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 2018

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White People Are More Likely to Get the Raises They Ask For

By Jordyn Holman |  | 6.5.2018

When people of color ask for raises, they’re a lot less likely than white workers to get the salary bump they request, according to a new study by PayScale, a firm that analyzes compensation data. Women of color, a group that includes African Americans, Asians, Hispanics and other non-white people, are 19 percent less likely than white men to get the raise they ask for, according to the survey of about 160,000 respondents. Non-white men were 25 percent more likely to be turned down for a salary increase. “Everyone’s asking, but they’re getting different answers,” said Lydia Frank, vice president of content strategy at PayScale. “I think with the current climate in this country and the systemic racism that we’ve seen in other areas, I don’t think it’s terribly surprising.”

Citing: How to Ask for a Raise and Get It by PayScale, June 2018

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Beyond Disruption: How Tech Shapes Labor Across Domestic Work & Ridehailing

By Julia Ticona, Alexandra Mateescu, and Alex Rosenblat | Data & Society | June 2018

While ridehail driving and other male-dominated sectors have been at the forefront in conversations about the future of work, the working lives of domestic workers like housecleaners and nannies usually aren’t included. By bringing these three types of platforms and workers together, this report complicates simple narratives about technology’s impact on labor markets and highlights the convergent and divergent challenges workers face when using labor platforms to find and carry out their work. Interviewees reported increased financial and personal risk due to platform policy and design loopholes. For example, workers with marginalized identities (e.g. people of color and undocumented workers; largely women) report inequitable conditions that arise from common features such as rating systems.

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The Mommy Effect: Do Women Anticipate the Employment Effects of Motherhood?

By Ilyana Kuziemko, Jessica Pan, Jenny Shen, and Ebonya Washington | NBER | June 2018

After decades of convergence, the gender gap in employment outcomes has recently plateaued in many rich countries, despite the fact that women have increased their investment in human capital over this period. We propose a hypothesis to reconcile these two trends: that when they are making key human capital decisions, women in modern cohorts underestimate the impact of motherhood on their future labor supply. Using an event-study framework, we show substantial and persistent employment effects of motherhood in U.K. and U.S. data. We then provide evidence that women do not anticipate these effects. Upon becoming parents, women (and especially more educated women) adopt more negative views toward female employment (e.g., they are more likely to say that women working hurts family life), suggesting that motherhood serves as an information shock to their beliefs. Women on average (and, again, more educated women in particular) report that parenthood is harder than they expected. We then look at longer horizons—are young women’s expectations about future labor supply correct when they make their key educational decisions?

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Script Girls, Secretaries and Stereotypes: Gender Bias in Pay on Film and Television Crews

By Pamela Coukos and Cyrus Mehri | Reel Equity & IATSE Local 871 | June 2018

Gender pay equity is a significant issue in media production — in front of and behind the camera, and above and below the line. Existing and historical gender-based job segregation, gender stereotyping, and differential negotiating power can lead to wide differences in pay for individuals who play similar roles or work at similar levels – due to different scale rates, different negotiated rates, or both. In light of these concerns, Local 871 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, its Territories and Canada (IATSE) retained Working IDEAL to perform an in-depth assessment of gender bias in compensation for four female-dominated Local 871 crafts involved in film, television and other media production: Script Supervisors, Production Coordinators, Assistant Production Coordinators and Art Department Coordinators.

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Care work and care jobs for the future of decent work

By Laura Addati, Umberto Cattaneo, Valeria Esquivel, and Isabel Valarino | International Labour Organization | June 2018

The report analyses the ways in which unpaid care work is recognized and organized, the extent and quality of care jobs and their impact on the well-being of individuals and society. A key focus of this report is the persistent gender inequalities in households and the labour market, which are inextricably linked with care work. These gender inequalities must be overcome to make care work decent and to ensure a future of decent work for both women and men. The report contains a wealth of original data drawn from over 90 countries and details transformative policy measures in five main areas: care, macroeconomics, labour, social protection and migration. It also presents projections on the potential for decent care job creation offered by remedying current care work deficits and meeting the related targets of the Sustainable Development Goals.

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Grand Theft Paycheck: The Large Corporations Shortchanging Their Workers’ Wages

By Phillip Mattera | Jobs With Justice | June 2018

A new report, released by Jobs With Justice Education Fund and the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First, identifies the large corporations that have been most involved in wage and hour collective action lawsuits. Grand Theft Paycheck: The Large Corporations Shortchanging Their Workers’ Wages finds wage theft is pervasive in big business. A detailed examination of court records reveals that hundreds of corporations have paid out billions of dollars to resolve wage theft lawsuits, and many corporations are repeat offenders. Walmart has paid the most in settlements, but the list of the most-penalized employers also includes Bank of America, Wells Fargo and other large banks and insurance companies as well as major technology and healthcare corporations.

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Research and Truth: Response to the Crisis at the Border

As researchers, data analysts, and social scientists, we often reach for facts and reliable information to light our way forward through difficult challenges. Research documents the profound and often irreparable harm caused by childhood trauma, such as separating children from their parents. Evidence also shows us the great economic and social power of women and their families—this power has and can continue to change policy for the betterment of all people.

Research can provide the stable ground where evidence-based decision-making can take root. Over the past few days and weeks, as we have witnessed the humanitarian crisis unfold at the southern U.S. border, a truth that transcends data or fact has emerged: we must do more to ensure that U.S. policies reflect the morality, empathy, and compassion that characterize a just society.

At this pivotal moment in our nation’s history, IWPR stands together with the many researchers and organizations speaking out on behalf of the human rights, health, and well-being of children and families.

Visit IWPR.org and statusofwomendata.org for information on the status of immigrant women in the United States and the organizations that work closely with them.

Equal Pay Act 55th Anniversary

June 10, 2018, marks the 55th anniversary of passage of the Equal Pay Act. On that day in 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed into law the act that, in his words, “prohibits the arbitrary discrimination against women in the payment of wages.”

John F Kennedy Celebrating Equal Pay Law
President Kennedy hands out pens at the White House signing of the Equal Pay Act on June 10, 1963. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

What is the Equal Pay Act?

Here’s how the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) summarizes the Equal Pay Act (EPA):

The Equal Pay Act requires that men and women be given equal pay for equal work in the same establishment. The jobs need not be identical, but they must be substantially equal. It is job content, not job titles, that determines whether jobs are substantially equal. Specifically, the EPA provides that employers may not pay unequal wages to men and women who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions.

The EPA also stipulates that when employers are required to correct a discriminatory difference in pay, they cannot reduce a higher-earner’s wages; instead, they must increase the lower-earner’s wages. Further, the EPA makes it illegal to retaliate against anyone for opposing practices that discriminate based on wages, filing a charge of discrimination, or participating in any way in an EPA investigation.

What have we gained since the Equal Pay Act?

When the EPA was passed, women earned 58.9 percent of what men earned, and the percentage was on a downward trend. Over the past fifty-five years, the gender pay gap has narrowed. In 2016, female full-time, year-round workers earned 80.5 percent of what men earned.

Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ruled that the EPA prohibits employers from paying women less than men based on women’s salary histories, which may help close the gender pay gap even further.

What progress do we still have to make on pay equality?

Despite these advances, there is still far to go. Even though the EPA makes it illegal to pay women less than men, according to IWPR research, women won’t reach parity until 2059 if trends over the past 30 years continue. The wait will be even longer for women of color: Black women won’t have equal pay until 2124, and Hispanic women won’t have equal pay until 2233.

What’s more, while the EPA focuses on eliminating pay inequality within “substantially equal” jobs, the profound gender segregation of the US labor market means that women and men tend to work in different occupations–and the jobs men tend to do pay much more. IWPR analyses of women in low-wage and middle-skill jobs has shown that many female-dominated jobs require similar skills and education to male-dominated jobs, yet pay much less. Research has found that more than half of the gender wage gap is due to this occupational and industry segregation.

As IWPR’s Ariane Hegewisch has said, “Perhaps the most important first step” in tackling gender inequality in these lower-wage jobs “is deciding that women’s work is valuable, and critical to the economy.” Concrete steps toward this recognition could include raising the minimum wage, guaranteeing paid sick days and family leave, ensuring fair scheduling, tackling wage theft and the underpayment of overtime rates, and increasing public subsidies for child care and elder care.

How have states and cities strengthened pay equality?

Under the EPA, the onus of proving wage discrimination rests on the worker. State and local efforts have sought to reverse this burden by requiring employers to prove that differences in pay are based on factors other than gender, such as legislation recently passed in New Jersey. Other local actions have focused on improving pay transparency, such as legislation in Washington, and banning employers from asking about salary history in the hiring process, such as legislation and executive orders in Massachusetts, New York City, and Chicagoamong others.


IWPR has been researching the gender wage gap and occupational segregation since its founding in 1987. Since then, the Institute has changed the conversation on women’s pay and provided policymakers, journalists, and advocates the data they need to better inform the debate on women’s economic status.

Want to learn even more about the gender wage gap? Head to IWPR’s “Pay Equity & Discrimination” page. Also be sure to check out IWPR’s Status of Women in the States’ “Employment & Earnings” page to see how your state measures up on women’s pay.