The Case of the Missing Fourteen Cents

Apr 04, 2014

Hard-working women across the state of Montana are trying to solve a mystery. From every dollar in every paycheck women are bringing home for a hard day’s work, thirty-three cents are missing.

So the women started looking around.

“Nothing is missing,” Montana working women were told. “You chose to leave it behind – by working in the field you do, by taking the job you did, and by raising a family for those few years. Look again. You’ll find it.” paygapgraphic

So they looked again.

The findings were clear. Women do, in fact, experience a pay gap of $0.33. For every dollar a man makes, a woman makes $0.67.

This week, Governor’s Bullock Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force delved into this mystery. According to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, part of this pay gap can be accounted for. Women often choose to take care of children and family members full-time, shortening their time in the labor force. Many women work in traditionally female professions, such as education, that are often underpaid. Women are also more likely to take part-time work, which often does not pay as well as a full-time position.

But these explanations only account for 65.7% of the pay gap (women, on average, are better educated than men, negating 6.7% of the gap). Fourteen cents out of every dollar that Montana women earn is still missing. This unexplained portion of the pay gap points to the gender inequality women in the workforce experience.

These missing cents matter. Economists estimate the U.S. economy would have produced an additional $447.6 billion in income in 2012 if men and women were paid equally. For women supporting families, the pay gap hurts even more. A single mother in Montana earns $26,610. That’s $13,000 less than a single father makes. Not only does the pay gap hurt Montana workers, it hurts families as a whole.

Our entire state does better when everyone earns their fair share. It’s time to find, and return, those missing fourteen cents.

Montana Budget & Policy Center

Shaping policy for a stronger Montana.

MBPC is a nonprofit organization focused on providing credible and timely research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues that impact low- and moderate-income Montana families.