Women in the Workforce: The Gender Pay Gap Is Greater for Certain Racial and Ethnic Groups and Varies by Education Level

GAO-23-106041 Published: Dec 15, 2022. Publicly Released: Dec 15, 2022.
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Fast Facts

In recent years, women were underrepresented in management positions and the gender pay gap was greater for certain groups. Published Census Bureau data showed that in 2021:

  • Women made up about 44% of the total workforce but only 41% of managers
  • Overall, women earned about $.82 for every dollar men earned; Hispanic or Latina women earned about $.58 and Black women earned about $.63 for every dollar White men earned
  • The gender pay gap varied by level of education: it was greatest for women with less than a high school diploma or equivalent, and was smallest for women with a bachelor's degree

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Highlights

What GAO Found

In recent years, women were underrepresented in management positions and the gender pay gap was greater for certain groups of women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's (Census Bureau) published American Community Survey (ACS) data on full-time workers. For example, in 2021:

  • Women made up an estimated 44 percent of the overall workforce, but an estimated 41 percent of managers.
  • Women earned an estimated 82 cents for every dollar that men earned (an overall pay gap of 18 cents on the dollar).
  • Compared to the overall pay gap, the gender pay gap was greater for full-time female managers, who earned an estimated 77 cents for every dollar earned by full-time male managers (a pay gap of 23 cents on the dollar).
  • The gender pay gap was also greater for women in certain sectors. For example, among workers who were self-employed in their own incorporated business, women earned an estimated 69 cents for every dollar earned by men (a pay gap of 31 cents on the dollar). In private, for-profit companies, women earned an estimated 78 cents for every dollar earned by men (a pay gap of 22 cents on the dollar). In government agencies and non-profit organizations, women earned an estimated 85 cents for every dollar earned by men (a pay gap of 15 cents on the dollar).
  • Compared to pay for White men, the pay gap was greater for women in most historically underserved racial and ethnic groups than for White women. For example, for every dollar earned by White men, Hispanic or Latina women earned an estimated 58 cents (a pay gap of 42 cents on the dollar), and Black or African American women earned an estimated 63 cents (a pay gap of 37 cents on the dollar), while White women earned an estimated 79 cents (a pay gap of 21 cents on the dollar).
  • The gender pay gap also varied by level of education. For example, among workers—including both full-time and part-time workers—with less than a high school diploma, women earned an estimated 66 cents for every dollar earned by men (a pay gap of 34 cents on the dollar). Among workers with a bachelor's degree, women earned an estimated 70 cents for every dollar earned by men (a pay gap of 30 cents on the dollar).

This report is descriptive, and it neither confirms nor refutes the presence of discriminatory practices.

Why GAO Did This Study

Prior research has shown that women in the U.S. workforce earn less than men and face challenges in advancing their careers. GAO's March 2022 report found that in 2019, women were underrepresented in management positions.

GAO was asked to assess disparities for women in the U.S. workforce, including the gender pay gap, in recent years. This is an interim report, and GAO plans to issue a more detailed report in spring 2023. This interim report examines (1) the representation of women, and the difference in pay between women and men, in the overall workforce; and (2) how pay differences between women and men in the overall workforce vary based on race and ethnicity and level of education. To assess women's workforce representation and pay, GAO reviewed published summary-level data from the Census Bureau's ACS from 2018, 2019, and 2021. GAO did not review ACS data from 2020 because the Census Bureau determined that those data did not meet statistical quality standards due to data collection disruptions early in the COVID-19 pandemic .

For more information, contact Thomas M. Costa at (202) 512-4769 or costat@gao.gov.

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