BEYOND THE NUMBERS
Today is Equal Pay Day, when we recognize the persistent gap in earnings between women and men. It’s also an opportunity to think about things that states can do — such as adopting or increasing state earned income tax credits (EITCs), raising minimum wages, and investing in child care and paid leave — to buoy low-paid women who support themselves and their families.
Looking at full-time, year-round workers in 2016, women earned just 80 cents on every dollar earned by men. This disparity is even more pronounced for women of color — for example, black and Latino women earned 63 and 54 cents on every dollar that white, non-Hispanic men earned for full-time, year-round work.
The pay gap persists across education levels, occupations, and states, and has many causes. As the Institute for Women’s Policy Research notes:
Women’s lower earnings are due to a number of factors, including lower earnings in occupations done mainly by women; lack of paid family leave and subsidized child care; and discrimination in compensation, recruitment, and hiring. Measures to improve the quality of jobs held mainly by women, tackle occupational segregation, enforce equal pay and employment opportunities, and improve work family benefits for all workers, will help the incomes of women and their families grow and strengthen the economy.
In addition to investing more in child care and paid leave and raising state minimum wages, states can adopt or increase EITCs, an important tool supporting women in lower-paid occupations. Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have adopted a state EITC, which, like the federal credit, boosts income and helps workers — especially women — make ends meet.
In every state, the majority of households benefitting from EITCs (state and federal) have a working woman (see table). And these credits have a wide range of benefits for women, research finds, like helping single moms move into the labor force and increasing women’s Social Security benefits in retirement by boosting their employment and earnings in their working-age years.
|State||Estimated Number of Working Women Who Receive Federal EITC||Share of EITC Households with a Working Woman***||State Has EITC|
|District of Columbia||35,000||62%||y|
* State has an EITC that is not refundable.
** California's refundable state EITC goes to just a portion of federal participants. Washington State has a credit in statute that has not yet been implemented.
*** In a small number of cases in which a same-sex couple has two working women spouses, both are counted.