The gender gap in wages has widened by a penny in Maryland over the past two years, with women in the state typically paid 84 cents for every dollar paid to men, according to a study released Monday.
The wage difference means Maryland women who are employed full-time earn $10,074 on average less than their male counterparts, the analysis shows.
The study by the National Partnership for Women & Families, which uses U.S. Census Bureau data, was pegged to Equal Pay Day on Tuesday, which marks how far into the year women must work to catch up with what men were paid the previous year.
A 2016 study by the organization found that Maryland women earned 85 cents for every dollar men earn with an annual pay gap of more than $8,600.
“It’s concerning overall that we’re seeing persistent wage gaps in spite of heightened awareness of it,” said Daraius Irani, chief economist with the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University. “We need to do a better job as a state and society to ensure women are paid the same for the same job.”
But he cautioned that it’s difficult to tell whether the gap actually increased a full penny on the dollar or less than that, which may reflect less of a change, and whether it means the gap will continue to widen, he said.
“It looks like it’s going the wrong way and will be interesting to see what the next couple of years bring,” he said.
The National Partnership says wage gaps, which are worse for women of color, contribute to poverty and income inequality. Nationally, women are paid 80 cents for every dollar, or a wage gap of $10,086.
“The wage gap cannot be explained by women’s choices,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership, in a statement. “It’s clear that discrimination contributes to it — and equally clear that it’s causing grave harm to women, families and the country.”
Vicki Shabo, vice president of workplace policies and strategies at the National Partnership, said movement of a penny up or down has been typical in many states and can be driven by increases in job categories that either have higher ratios of men to women or women to men.
“I wouldn’t read too much into a one-cent change,” she said.
Still, Shabo said, “the wage gap is closing at less than a cent a year nationwide. That’s not the kind of progress we want to see for women to achieve pay parity.”
Separate research by the Economic Policy Institute found that on average last year, women were paid 22 percent less than men, after controlling for race and ethnicity, education, age and location.
The institute’s researchers argue the gaps can’t be explained away by saying women choose to work in low-paying jobs or that they need to pursue more advanced eduction. Women are paid less than male counterparts in almost every job category, even occupations traditionally held by women, according to the institute.
The institute’s research also showed women losing ground on pay parity in Maryland. Its analysis of median wages showed women earned 87.6 percent of men’s wages in 2016 but only 84.2 percent last year.
“You see a divergence,” which on the state level can result from local economic effects or shifts in job sectors, said Jessica Schieder, a research assistant.
Nationally, she said, “we have continued to see some progress, including over the last year.”
In Maryland, women lose a combined total of more than $18.2 billion each year because of differences in pay, the National Partnership said. The group argues that closing the $10,074 wage gap would allow the state’s working women to afford 79 more weeks of food, more than five more months of mortgage and utility payments, nearly eight more months of rent, or more than 12 additional months of child care.
The wage gap is even more pronounced for women of color compared to white men. Black women in Maryland earned $22,054 less and Latina women earned $37,971 less, according to the study.
Maryland does have the ninth smallest gap in cents-on-the-dollar in the United States, where gender-based pay differences exists in every state and Washington, according to the National Partnership, which is pushing for Congress to pass legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Fair Pay Act and the Healthy Families Act, which guarantees earned sick days.