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  • Unequal Pay Costing Southern Women, Especially Women Of Color, Billions
    Updated On: Apr 07, 2016

    By JoAnne Powers, March 8, 2016

    The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has released a report on the Status of Women in the nation’s Southern states. The report looks at areas from economics and education to health and political participation. When comparing the economic situation, the wage gap between women and men in the south is almost 80 cents on the dollar, comparable with that across the U.S. Julie Anderson, a Research Associate with the Institute, says once you look at the data for different demographics, however, the bigger disparities reveal themselves:

    [Julie Anderson]: “52 percent for Hispanic women, of what white men earn, and 60 percent for black women. That’s just a much, much bigger gap for specific racial and ethnic groups in the South than they experience in other parts of the country.”

    While the many disparities between the South and the rest of the nation are often fueled by historical discrimination, the study found that persistently high levels of poverty were at the root of many problems:

    [Julie Anderson]: “Poverty, obviously, makes it very difficult to receive an education. Poverty makes it difficult to have stable, secure employment…if you have issues of not having transportation, if you have family members relying on you. So, all these areas are interconnected. In many ways the south did not do very well on health. Poverty and health are two conditions that are just so hard to break away from and to start to improve one’s circumstances, improve stability for families."

    In the thirteen southern states plus D.C. that IWPR looked at, over three-quarters of them have passed anti-union so-called right-to-work legislation, compared to only about third of the rest of the country. However, there was a big earnings advantage for unionized women in the South:

    [Julie Anderson]: “Ironically, the wage advantage is higher for women in the south than it is for women in other states. Where women can organize, they definitely do see exactly the benefits from union membership that we would anticipate: higher earnings…I believe I recall that more women have pension pans…they have the built-in transparency that leads to fair wages.”

    Anderson says their analysis shows that equal pay would both increase earnings and decrease poverty:

    [Julie Anderson]: “If the wage gap were closed, women were paid the same as men who were working the same number of hours, who have the same education, same age…the poverty rate in the south would be cut by more than half. That gender wage gap is costing women in the south 155 billion dollars a year, which is money that they would have and presumably much of it would go back into local economies. So many families are relying on women’s earnings, closing the wage gap and increasing those earnings would just have tremendous impact, and, again, knowing more women of color are living in poverty and have more precarious employment, it would particularly be a benefit for women of color and their families.”

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