The United States is suffering from the greatest wealth inequality since 1928, a gap that only keeps growing. The wealthiest 25% of US households own 87% of the wealth; in 2009 that amounted to $4.2 trillion. The top 1 percent of America, however, has 40 percent of America’s wealth and the bottom 80 percent only 7 percent.
The poverty rate for women in the U.S. has stabilized during post-recession, but at 14.6 percent, remains the highest rate in nearly two decades. The poverty rate for men was also stable at 10.9 percent. The poverty rate for elderly women remained at 10.7 percent, but the poverty rate of elderly women living alone grew to 18.4 percent from 17 percent from the prior year. Today, 17.7 million poor people in this country are women.
The typical full-time working woman stands to miss out on $443,360 over 40 years because of the gender wage gap, according to an April report from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). That means a woman would have to work 12 years longer than her male counterpart just to break even. NWLC calculated the long-term effect of the wage gap by multiplying $11,084 (the earnings gap between full-time working women and men in 2011, as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau) by 40 (the presumed length of a typical career).
The pay gap between male and female workers actually expanded in 2012, the first such increase since the beginning of the recovery, according to a March 2013 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Part of the problem is that females represent the majority of minimum-wage workers. Almost two-thirds of minimum-wage workers are female, and women make up the majority of workers in the ten largest occupations that pay less than $10.10 an hour. In 2012, women suffered disproportionately from public sector job cuts, and job growth in the private sector has remained sluggish for women during the recovery.
Discrimination also plays a role in the gender income gap. A 2007 study published in the American Journal of Sociology discovered that women who were mothers were recommended for lower starting salaries than female coworkers who didn’t have children.
Since 1970, the median salary has increased six-fold to approximately $50,000. Prices for cars increased 8 times, houses 9 times, and gas 10 times.
Only 10 percent of the world’s multimillionaires are women; the U.S. comes in just under that at 9.4 percent. The first female General Motors CEO, Mary Barra, was given a salary of $4.4 million, less than half of her male predecessors, until there was an uproar. GM has now announced that she will be making $14.4 million, more than her predecessor because his salary was capped by the U.S. government as long as they owned GM shares.
The myth that women have equal pay to men if all issues are equal is debunked by this study from Silcon Valley in California. Men working in Silicon Valley with a graduate or professional degree in 2012 earned 73 percent more than women in the industry with the same degrees. Men with bachelor’s degrees make 40 percent more than women with the same educational level. It’s better than two years earlier when men made 97 percent more than women—twice as much.
Much of the research regarding the economic gap between men and women concentrates on the differences in income. It is the wealth that actually matters, as shown in Shortchanged: Why Women Have Less Wealth and What Can Be Done About It by Mariko Lin Chang. Although many of her statistics are before 2005, there is no indication in current research that the situation has improved.
Following are some statistics from the book showing the disparity between the wealth—net worth—of women and men. Updates not in the book are in brackets.
P. 2: Women own 36 percent as much wealth as men.
P. 5: In 2004, the top 1 percent earned 17 percent of total income but owned 34 percent of total wealth; the bottom 40 percent earned 10 percent of total income but owned only 0.2 percent of total wealth; the wealthiest 20 percent of households held 85 percent of total wealth; between 1983 and 2004, the top 1 percent experienced 78 percent increase in average wealth while bottom 40 percent saw wealth decline by 59 percent.
P. 7: Never-married women make 95 percent of men’s wages but own only 16 percent of wealth; men have $20,000 in wealth while women $3,150. Half of households are headed by single persons.
P. 10: Almost one in five widows lives in poverty; elderly widows are three times as likely to live in poverty as elderly married couples; in 1998, women had only 40 percent as much wealth in pension plans as men. [Widowed women, faring best of all non-married women, own $.59 for every $1 of widowed men.]
P. 12: In 2006, more than one-third of all women with children under the age of 18 lived in poverty, compared to 17.6 percent for men—about half the rate.
P. 20: Single women median wealth – $10,400; single men media wealth – $28,610; 7 percent of households under age 65 have net worth of $1 million or more.
P. 31: In 1998, women’s median wealth – $12,748; men’s median wealth – $19,238.
P. 38: For those earning over $80,000, women’s media wealth – $117,950; men’s median wealth – $415,000.
P. 59: Raising a child from birth to age 17 costs between $176,890 and $353,410.
P. 60: 50 percent of never-married mothers live in poverty compared to 29 percent of never-married single fathers, 25 percent of divorced single mothers, and 14 percent of divorced single fathers.
P. 62: Wealth ratio between single mothers and single fathers is 22 percent: men have $1 and women have $.22); half of all never-married mothers average $40 in wealth and never-married fathers average $24,300; 46 percent of women have no or negative wealth.
Pp. 65-66: Mothers experience a 4-percent wage penalty for first child and 12 percent for each additional one while men increase 9 percent with birth of first child because they are considered more committed to their work. [Economist Stephen Rose and Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research: women’s average annual earnings decline 20 percent if they stay out of the workforce for one year and 30 percent if the absence stretches to two or three years.]
The income gap between men and women is important, but the wealth gap reveals why men have greater quality of life than women do. With the fiscal discrimination against women who bear children and the increasing loss of net worth for all women, the United States will continue to fall farther and farther behind other countries as a world leader.
More information about Shortchanged and the gender wealth gap can be found at https://nelsnewday.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/dont-shortchange-women/