The weak economy has knocked down the salaries of men and women equally, leaving intact the large paycheck disparity between genders, new census data show.
Women employed full time earned a median $37,118 in 2011, nearly $11,000, or 23 percent, less than men, according to figures released this week.
Working men and women each earned 2.5 percent less from the year before, so the earnings differences remained.
“It’s extraordinarily frustrating because women are breadwinners for their families,” said Egg Harbor Township resident Audrey Moloney, public policy chairwoman for the Atlantic County chapter of the American Association of University Women. “Clearly we still have a lot of work to do. This crosses all lines in terms of income, and it particularly hurts women of lower income.”
The wage gap was even greater in most area counties in 2010, the most recent year for which such local data were available.
Women working full time earned 30 percent less than men in Cape May County; 24 percent in Cumberland County; and 25 percent in Ocean County, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
That means annual median wages were between $11,000 and $16,000 lower for women who work full-time, year-round jobs.
Atlantic County was the exception. Women there earned 13 percent less than men, or about $5,400 less per year.
The latest data represent a troubling trend that has long affected women in the work force, said Christianne Corbett, a senior researcher at the Washington, D.C.-based American Association of University Women, which promotes pay equality.
The national earnings difference has remained nearly unchanged for a decade, she said.
While part of the gap can be explained by the tendency of some higher-paying occupations — such as engineering — to draw more men, that is only part of the picture, Corbett said.
Her association did a study in 2007 tracking college graduates by major and career.
Corbett said it found women were paid 5 percent less than men one year out of college despite having the same majors, fields and work hours.
“Part of it is not explained by anything. There’s still some unexplained gap,” she said. “That is due to factors hard to measure. One may be discrimination.”
In Atlantic County, Moloney said she was fortunate.
The retired elementary school teacher, who taught reading and math in Linwood and Pleasantville, said the pay scales were the same for men and women.
Moloney is a proponent of federal legislation to help close the wage differences.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in January 2009, expanded the statute of limitations for workers to sue for wage discrimination.
Moloney and others are pushing for more federal legislation that she said would help give women better equal-pay protections. Recent efforts — including the Paycheck Fairness Act — did not pass the U.S. Senate this year.
Among other issues, the act sought to make employers prove pay differences between men and women in the same field were due to job performance.
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