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What Would Closing the Wage Gap Mean?

The effects for single moms and racial minorities would be particularly significant

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smithsonian.com

It's no secret that women earn 20 percent less than men do—both because they're paid less for the same work and end up in fields that come with a lower salary in the first place. And a new report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research underscores the economic effect that closing the wage gap would have for women: pay women the same amount as men, and half of women currently below the poverty line would no longer be poor.

Across the board, women are more likely to live in poverty than men, says the report: 15.5 percent, compared to 11.9 percent of men, overall. That disparity holds true even for millennial women, who are more likely to have a college degree than millennial men.

And single moms have the highest poverty rate—43 percent—compared to any other family set-up. "Raises for women could drastically change the financial picture for a lot of families," writes Danielle Paquette at the Washington Post's Wonkblog. That's because women are the money-earners in 40 percent of American families with kids.

Gender isn't the only way to slice the pay gap, of course, even if it is the one that receives the most attention. Factoring race into the difference between men and women widens that gap significantly: Native American, Black, and Hispanic women are over twice as likely to live in poverty compared to white women, says the report. And there exists a pay gap among men, too: Black men make 73 percent of what white men make, reports the Nation.

You can explore the results from the report in the Institute's interactive map, here.

About Shannon Palus

Shannon Palus is a science writer, and a researcher for Popular Science. Her work has appeared in Discover, Slate, Ars Technica, and elsewhere. She is based in Philadelphia.

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