Personal Finance

The coronavirus crisis could have a lasting impact on the gender wage gap

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Key Points
  • Before the pandemic, mothers were paid only 70 cents for every dollar paid to fathers, according to the National Women's Law Center.
  • Even with millions of Americans now working from home, the wage disparity among parents persists, and could likely worsen due to Covid-19.
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Even with millions of Americans working from home and sharing in some childcare responsibilities, the wage gap among parents persists — and could likely worsen due to Covid-19.

In the U.S., women who work full time are typically paid about 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts, but the wage gap between working mothers and fathers is even larger.

Mothers are paid only 70 cents for every dollar paid to fathers, which translates to a loss of $18,000 a year, according to a new analysis of Census data by the  nonprofit advocacy organization National Women's Law Center. The pay gap worsens significantly for minorities, particularly African-American women and Latinas, the center also found.

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"There is likely to be some negative impact on women's earnings as a result of this crisis," said Emily Martin, the center's vice president for education & workplace justice.

"The economic crisis is happening at the very moment that families are losing flexibility around childcare," Martin said. 

Since the coronavirus started trashing the economy, women have been disproportionately cutting back on job hours to take care of their children, Martin explained. "For many women, they were less able to be available for work at the moment that employers were cutting jobs."

The economic crisis is happening at the very moment that families are losing flexibility around childcare.
Emily Martin
vice president at the National Women's Law Center

Overall, the unemployment rate jumped to 14.7% in April, but when broken down by gender, the jobless rate was 13.5% for men and 16.2% for women

While fathers are likely taking on more childcare responsibilities than than they were before, "women are still holding the lion's share," Martin said.   

In terms of the gender wage gap going forward, "there is a real chance we could see some backsliding," she said.  

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Also called the "motherhood penalty," women start falling behind men in terms of their rank and their probability of being promoted just after the birth of the first child, according to a separate paper by Henrik Kleven, Camille Landais and Jakob Egholt Sogaard published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in January 2018.

For women, incomes drop 30% after giving birth for the first time and never catch up.

Alternatively, men often see a bump in pay when they have children, according to a separate report by the British trade union association TUC.

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