On Equal Pay Day, New Study Reminds Everyone Just How Big The Gender Pay Gap Is

Former Sen. Wendy Davis sponsored a bill that would've addressed the wage gap in 2013, only for it to be vetoed by former governor Rick Perry.
Former Sen. Wendy Davis sponsored a bill that would've addressed the wage gap in 2013, only for it to be vetoed by former governor Rick Perry.
Photo by Allison Hess

Just in time for Equal Pay Day, here’s a quick, sobering reminder from the National Partnership For Women And  Families: Texas women collectively lose nearly $37 billion every year thanks to the gender wage gap.

To celebrate today’s occasion, the organization released a new national study that found, unsurprisingly, that the wage gap exists in all 50 states and all 435 congressional districts. In Texas, according to the findings, women are paid 79 cents for every dollar paid to men, amassing an annual wage gap of $9,807. While women working full-time, year-round have a median annual salary of $36,428, men bring in a median annual salary of $46,235.

“Often opponents will say that this is just because of women’s choices,” said Vicki Shabo, National Partnership For Women And Families vice president. “But we know that, when you look at every industry, across every education level, women are systematically paid less, and that’s really concerning.”

The gap gets worse for minority women in Texas. African-American women earn 59 cents for every dollar paid to white men, while Latinas earn just 44 cents to the dollar, which Vicki Shabos, vice president of National Partnership For Women And Families, said is slightly worse compared to other states.

Equally concerning, Shabo said, is when you look at how many women are the breadwinners in their families, who are still having to deal with the inequity. In Texas, women are the head of the household in over 1.3 million families. About one-third of those family households, according to the study, have incomes that fall below the poverty level. On a national level, women who are specifically single mothers earn just 58 cents for every dollar paid to fathers.

“This is a matter of fairness and the need to root out discrimination,” Shabo said, “but it’s also about the economic security that single mothers need. It impacts their ability to meet ends’ meet in the short-term, but also their children’s opportunities in the long-term.”

Interest in equal pay for equal work has gained traction in recent years in the Texas Legislature, though nothing has come of several lawmakers’ efforts. The closest was when a bill sponsored by former senator Wendy Davis that would have made it easier for women to file wage-discrimination suits and earn back pay passed in the Legislature, only to be vetoed by then-governor Rick Perry. (Gov. Greg Abbott, upon taking, office, also said he would’ve vetoed it, saying wage discrimination is already illegal and women can already sue for that).

Last session, Texas Republicans voted against three bills that would’ve addressed equal pay, as Progress Texas noted. They not only voted against a bill that would’ve raised the minimum wage to $10, but also against an amendment to the bill that would require equal pay for equal work regardless of gender. They voted 78 to 57 against the bill Perry had already vetoed that was re-introduced. And they even voted against a budget amendment that would have simply required that lawmakers study equal pay among state-agency salaries—something that every Democrat supported.

“Although Texas’s political environment is difficult,” Shabo said, “that should not stand in the way of lawmakers passing common-sense policies to narrow the pay gap.”

On the national scale, while legislation is pending in Washington, D.C., that would address equal pay and both Democratic presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, have pledged support should they be elected, Texas’s very own Ted Cruz has, surprise surprise, called the Democrats’ push for equal pay a “political show vote” that “won’t accomplish anything.”


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