White House study shows persisting gap in wages, despite education advancement

In the first comprehensive government study of its kind since 1963, President Obama released Women in America this week, examining the “social and economic well-being” of women in the United States.

The New York Times synthesized that across all education levels, women are still earning just 75 percent of men’s wages in comparable positions. NBC Nightly News focused on the study’s findings that more women than men earn college degrees at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Supporting the White House’s concession that the study didn’t necessarily reveal new information, several stories have been published in recent years highlighting this wage gap across professions. Time magazine tackled the topic in a 1982 cover titled “How Long ‘Till Equality?” In 1999, MIT released data that showed female faculty at the science-focused university suffered not only pay disparities, but also less access to awards, resources and opportunities for professional accomplishments. In 2010, Newsweek published a feature about the $66,000 pay gap for female lawyers.

The original study, compiled by Eleanor Roosevelt as a result of President Kennedy’s Commission On the Status of Women, reported disparaging data that eventually led to the Equal Pay Act of 1963.  One of Obama’s first actions in office was to create the Council on Women and Girls, an agency with the goal of ensuring other government agencies “take into account the needs of women and girls in the policies they draft, the programs they create, the legislation they support.”

The study was broken up into sections tackling families and income, education, employment, health, and crime and violence.

Some highlights of the study:

  • The median age for a college educated woman to marry is 30 years old.
  • Female students are more likely to experience electronic bullying than male students.
  • Women continue to outlive men, but their five-year advantage is narrowing the gap that used to exist between male and female longevity.
  • Less women than men have lost their jobs in the recent economic recession (see USA Today’s analysis of the business sector).
  • White women actually experience the largest pay gap of any racial group; Asian women earn 82 percent as Asian men, and African American and Latina women earn 94 and 90 percent of the wage of men in their same racial group, respectively.
  • Rates of women suffering from violent crimes are decreasing.
  • The cesarean rate rose from 21 percent in 1996 to 32 percent in 2008, the highest rate ever reported in the United States.

The full study (which is actually quite readable and user-friendly) can be found here: Women_in_America.

A look at sex

Another study released this week examined a more targeted aspect of women’s participation in society: sexual activity. The National Survey of Family Growth, compiled by the CDC, concluded that abstinence from sexual activity in both women and men aged 15 to 24 has increased by almost 7 percent from the last survey in 2002. However, in the 25-to-44 age group,  98 percent of females and 97 percent of males report having had vaginal intercourse, with about 90 percent having oral sex as well.

Other data noted a significant decrease in teenage pregnancy rates (almost 40 percent), which some have attributed to both increased condom use and delayed sexual activity. The survey also revealed women are more likely to have a same-sex encounter and less likely to have more than 15 sexual partners in their lifetime (male or female).

This is the Gender Report’s Week in Review, a weekly post that highlights some of the major stories related to gender issues this week. Some of these stories may have already appeared in our News Feed or in the week’s Gender Checks. We’ll at times include a longer analysis of stories as well as bring attention to stories that may have slipped through the cracks of the week’s news cycle.


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