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Pay is Up. Poverty is Down. How Women are Making Strides.

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Women are making significant gains in median earnings and their poverty rates are decreasing.

Yet, the wage gap between men and women remains unchanged from the previous year, as women earned 82 cents for every dollar earned by men among full-time, year-round workers.

Poverty rates for women continue to be higher than for men.



This week, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual Income and Poverty in the United States: 2018 report.

One of the most cited estimates from that report is the female-to-male earnings ratio, a metric of how well women are paid compared with men. It is based on the median earnings of full-time, year-round workers.

The 2018 female-to-male earnings ratio was 0.816, not statistically different from the 2017 ratio. Year-to-year changes in this ratio are not common. However, the female-to-male earnings ratio has increased 4.8% from 0.778 in 2007.

Despite the lack of annual change for this indicator, there is evidence that women experienced significant gains compared with men between 2017 and 2018.

How Women Are Making Earnings Gains

Despite the lack of annual change for this indicator, there is evidence that women experienced significant gains compared with men between 2017 and 2018.

For instance, the total number of female workers with earnings increased by approximately 1.1 million, while the number of male workers did not change. 

Among full-time, year-round workers, the number of women increased by 1.6 million and the number of men increased by about 700,000 between 2017 and 2018.



Among full-time, year-round workers, median earnings for women were $45,097 while median earnings for men were $55,291 in 2018.  This was an increase in real earnings of 3.3% for women and 3.4% for men from the prior year (the difference between the percent changes was not statistically significant).

Compared with their median earnings in 2007, the year before the most recent recession, women working full-time, year-round now earn 5.8% more after adjusting for inflation. In contrast, men’s real median earnings were not statistically different between 2007 and 2018 among full-time, year-round workers.


Poverty Rate Declines for Women but More Women Still Live in Poverty Than Men

Women continue to have higher rates of poverty than men. The 2018 poverty rate for women was 12.9%, down from 13.6% in 2017.

The poverty rate for men was 10.6% in 2018, not statistically different from 2017.

Poverty rates were down for Non-Hispanic white women, black women, and Hispanic women. 

The Census Bureau classifies family households (defined as two or more people living together who are related by birth, marriage, or adoption, and one of them is the householder) into three groups: married-couple, female householder with no spouse present, and male householder with no spouse present.



Median income for households maintained by women ($45,128) was lower than that for married-couple family households ($93,654) and those maintained by men ($61,518) in 2018.

Real median income for female householders increased 5.8% between 2017 and 2018.

Median incomes of married-couple households and those with male householders did not change from 2017. (The difference between the 2017 and 2018 percent change in median income for male householders and female householders was not statistically significant.)

In 2018, the poverty rate for families with a female householder was 24.9%, higher than that for married-couple families (4.7%) and families with a male householder (12.7%).  

However, the poverty rate for families with a female householder declined from the previous year, at 26.2% in 2017. The other family household types experienced no change.



For more details on changes in income and poverty rates for female householder families, see Poverty Rate for People in Female-Householder Families Lowest on Record”.


Jessica Semega is a statistician in the Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division at the Census Bureau.


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Page Last Revised - October 28, 2021
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