NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Once and Future Declines in the Gender Pay-Gap

August 16, 2000

The trend toward greater equality of pay between men and women has stalled since the mid-1990s. But a study by Cornell University economists Francine D. Blau and Lawrence M. Kahn, to be published in the fall 2000 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, argues that the stall is only temporary and further progress can be expected in the years ahead.

  • In 1999, the weekly pay of American women with full-time jobs was 76.5 percent of what men got -- up from 61 percent in 1974.
  • The primary reason for the shrinking pay gap in the 1980s and early 1990s was a rise in the full-time work experience of women -- from an average of 7.5 fewer years of work experience than men at the start of the 1980s to 4.6 years by the end of that decade.
  • Women also caught up because more of them went into professional and managerial positions.
  • Although the government reportedly scaled back anti-discrimination enforcement in this period, the researchers believe it's likely discrimination still decreased as employers realized women were more committed to staying on the job than in the past.

Blau and Kahn predict that the gender pay-gap will soon resume its decline.

Source: Charles J. Whalen, "Closing the Pay Gap," Business Week, August 28, 2000.


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