By Sarita Chourey –
The disparity between what women and men in South Carolina are paid is greater than the gap women nationwide and women in neighboring states experience. Figures the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released Monday show South Carolina women’s median pay is 79.5 percent of men’s earnings.
Nationally, women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s is 82.5. The figures reflect median usual weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers in 2014. “If you look at the wage gap, a lot of it is around who gets hired to the best positions and who gets promoted. It’s not just being paid less in the same job, it’s who gets the best job,” said Ariane Hegewisch, a study director for The Institute for Women’s Policy Research. “It shouldn’t be subjective, but unfortunately often it is,” she said. “And we know that when negotiating salaries, women fear different cultural constraints than men.”
It’s unclear what role conservative social attitudes toward women may play in hiring, promotions and compensation decisions. In Georgia, a sister state in the politically red, Deep South region, for instance, the gender pay gap is slightly smaller than the national rate, with Georgia women earning a median wage of 83.7 percent of men’s. In North Carolina, the gap shrinks further to 86.1 percent, while Tennessee’s disparity is even smaller, 90.2 percent. Florida is on par with the nationwide median.
Nevertheless, Georgia women and those in other states have little to lord over South Carolina women. Georgia will only reach equal pay between the sexes by 2055, if trends continue, according to IWPR projections. South Carolina won’t get there until 2094. “The differences among data for the states reflect, in part, variation in the occupations and industries found in each state and diversity in the age composition of each state’s labor force” said Timothy Ewing, an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau’s data by state refers to female workers’ residency, not the state in which they work. The data also do not control for factors such as specialization and work experience.
The racial and ethnic makeup of a state, also, affects the size of the wage gap. Asian women and men out-earned their white, black, and Hispanic or Latino counterparts. Kevin Miller, senior researcher for The American Association of University Women, said it’s possible traditional social attitudes in conservative states drive hiring and salary decisions that result in women being paid less. He cited studies that show women are paid less than men when executives are given a hypothetical choice between male and female candidates of identical credentials. “I’d say the North-South divide or culture factors are not as big a deal as people would expect,” he said, pointing to North Carolina’s relatively small wage gap between men and women. “I’m guessing that age could be a difference for South Carolina. That’s definitely an older populace.” Women reach the closest to men’s median earnings in the District of Columbia, with 96 percent. Near parity is probably due to the area’s big employer. “So many workers in D.C. tend to be government workers, where there are standardized pay scales,” Miller said. “Whereas some of the states that have the largest wage gaps, such as Wyoming …have rural areas, rural jobs, mining and construction.”
In 2014, the highest median weekly earnings for women were the age group of 35 to 64. There was almost no difference for 35-to 44-year-olds ($781), 45- to 54-year-olds ($780), and 55- to 64-year-olds ($780). For men, earnings were greatest for 45-to-64-year-olds,with 45- to 54-year-olds ($1,011) and 55-to-64-year-olds ($1,021) close in pay. Near the bottom were young men, age 16 to24, with $493. Young women were dead last with $451.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics