I watched a lot of U.S. Open tennis over the last two weeks and was pleasantly surprised to find out that the U.S. Open had been paying women equal prize money for 50 years, thanks to the efforts of Billie Jean King. The other majors only started equal prize money for men and women this century (Australian Open in 2001; French Open in 2006 for champions and all rounds in 2007; Wimbledon in 2007).
Unfortunately, if you are not an elite female tennis player, you are unlikely to earn the same pay as a man. The gender pay gap for Georgia is 81% and for South Carolina, it is 78%. This means that women in our states earn about 80 percent of male earnings on average. Looking more closely at the counties that make up the metro area, we see that the gender pay gap locally is generally worse than the state-level data (see below). The county that does best for gender pay equality is Richmond County at 82%, slightly better than the state average. McDuffie County comes out worst at 70%. The two South Carolina counties also fare worse than the state average. Women earn more than men in 7 counties in Georgia (Atkinson, Calhoun, Grady, Rockdale, Treutlen, Turner, and Wheeler).
Although the gender pay gap has improved from about 60% in the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s, it seems to have stalled at around 80 percent this century. Economists have researched why there is a persistent gender pay gap. Traditional explanations, such as differences in education, have declined as women have, on average, more years of schooling than men. Men in the 1980’s had almost 7 years more work experience than women, but that gap is now just over one year.
Although women have made great strides in attaining higher-paying managerial jobs, they are still overrepresented in nursing and K-12 education that pay lower than traditional male occupations. These occupational and industry choices by women explain about 50 percent of the gender pay gap. Even after accounting for education, experience, occupation, and industry, there is still about 40% of the gender pay gap economists cannot explain. Discrimination cannot be ruled out.