As is true elsewhere, women in Mississippi earn less than men. This wage gaps hurts women, the families they support, and our economy. In Mississippi, the effect of the gap is even more drastic due to the already low median earnings of workers in our state compared with others nationwide. Additionally, Mississippi has the highest percentage of single parent-headed households (48 percent of families are usually headed by women) among states, making women’s wages a key factor in economic security for Mississippi families.
No one reason alone can explain the gap. It is a combination of factors, including women’s career choices, family responsibilities, and employer bias. The picture is bleaker for African American women in Mississippi, when racial bias is considered in conjunction with the other factors listed above.
White women in Mississippi who work full time earn on average 79 cents for every dollar white men earn. African American women who work full time, on the other hand, earn only 59 cents for every dollar white male full time workers earn.
Lawmakers, advocacy organizations, and researchers have examined strategies to close the gender wage gap. The following policy recommendations could reduce it significantly:
1) Enact federal and/or state legislation that makes equal pay for equal work the law.
2) Increase funding for workforce training programs that encourage women to seek careers in fields that provide a wage that will support their family adequately including non-traditional fields like construction, where women’s earnings match men’s more closely.
3) Increase the availability of affordable, quality child care by allocating more funding for childcare subsidies or coordinating existing programs to support families that need child care.
4) Enact legislation that encourages employers to provide work environments that allow parents (both women and men) the flexibility to meet both family and work responsibilities. This could mean requiring employers to provide paid sick leave and paid maternity/family leave.
For a more in-depth look at women and economic security in Mississippi, see our recent report.