Women's salaries rise, but not moms'

April 21, 1993|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

DETROIT -- The progress is slow, but women are making strides when it comes to taking home man-sized paychecks.

During the 1980s, the average pay for a woman as a percentage of a man's pay rose significantly, and younger women appear to be doing the best, according to a Detroit Free Press analysis of recently released census data.

In 1979, the average full-time working woman was paid just 61 percent of what men were; by 1989, that figure rose to 71 percent.

Something hasn't changed, however: Paychecks of mothers lag well behind those of childless women.

"There's still this view that women, simply by virtue of having kids or taking time off to be with those children, are less valuable employees," said Ellen Bravo, national director of 9to5, the National Association of Working Women.

Among the findings:

* Some of women's gains are because younger men's average wages, adjusted for inflation, dropped in the 1980s. But real gains by women in their 20s and early 30s also narrowed the gap.

* Women in their 20s with no children averaged 90 percent or more of what men in their 20s made in 1989. A decade earlier, women in their 20s averaged 80 percent or less of a man's paycheck.

For example, the average 26-year-old childless woman working full-time was paid about $19,800 in 1989, or 92 percent of what an average 26-year-old man made.

But the historic drop-off as women get older continued. In that same year, childless women in their mid-30s were down to the mid-80-percent range.

Also, the so-called "mommy track" penalty continues. For example, the average 25-year-old mother in 1989 earned about $14,900, or about 74 percent of what a 25-year-old man did.

* By their mid-30s, men with high-school educations earned more on average than women with college degrees.

* The pay gender gap is biggest in private industry, smaller in government and nonprofit organizations.

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