Moms, Beware: The Gender Pay Gap Hits You Hardest, No Matter Where You Live

© David Pereiras / Adobe Stock

working mom

© David Pereiras / Adobe Stock

Samantha Samel
Samantha Samel
June 21, 2024 at 3:18PM UTC
You’ve probably heard of Equal Pay Day, a rather bleak day that signifies the point until which women have to work in order to catch up in pay to what their male counterparts made the prior year. This year, Equal Pay Day fell on April 4 — but we’re only just now getting to Mothers' Equal Pay Day today (May 23).
As you may have gathered, Mothers' Equal Pay Day marks the gender pay gap for mothers, specifically… so if you thought April 4 was depressing, you’re about to feel even more discouraged (particularly if you have kids). On Monday (May 22), the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) released a report indicating just how bad the pay gap is for mothers, who face a “motherhood penalty” for each child they have.
According to the NWLC, a mother earns, on average, just 71 cents to a father’s dollar — in other words, $16,000 less annually — which is 9 cents lower than the national average for all women vs. all men. These inequalities between moms and dads exist at every level of education and at every age, in every state, and within every race and occupation.  
Mothers with a high school degree earn only 67 cents for every dollar paid to fathers with the same level of education, the NWLC has found. Moreover, moms need a bachelor’s degree or even a higher level of education before they begin to out-earn dads with a high school degree. And while fathers who have a master’s or doctoral degree make about $100,000 and $110,000, respectively, mothers tend to earn a maximum of $89,000 annually, no matter how educated they are.
The pay gap hits mothers hard no matter how old they are; “among full time, year round workers ages 20-29, mothers are typically paid 74 cents for every dollar paid to fathers,” according to the NWLC. “Among workers ages 40-49, mothers are paid just 69 cents for every dollar paid to fathers, which means they are falling behind at the very time they need additional resources to invest in their families and save for retirement.”
And while the pay gap varies between states, fathers make more than mothers in every area of the country. The gap is the smallest in Delaware, where moms earn 83 cents for every dollar that dads earn; it’s widest in Utah and Louisiana, where mothers are paid a mere 58 cents for every dollar fathers are paid.
Mothers of every race are paid less than fathers, but the pay gap is the largest for black, native, and Latina mothers, who earn just 51, 49, and 46 cents, respectively, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic fathers. Moreover, moms experience a pay gap regardless of their occupation.
The NWLC’s report weighs in on the implications of these income inequalities:
“Particularly when mothers support children on their own, these lower wages leave families below or dangerously close to the poverty line [...] Indeed, more than 1 in 9 single mothers who held full time jobs throughout 2015 were poor. More than half of all poor children lived in families headed by women in 2015, and female-headed households with children were much more likely to be poor in 2015 (36.5 percent) than male-headed households (22.1 percent) or households headed by married couples (7.5 percent).
“Meanwhile,” the report continues, “fathers tend to be concentrated in occupations that are more highly paid.”

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