The Gender Pay Gap Is Really Bad News for the Economy

A report released in April 2016 says at current rates, the gender pay gap won't close until 2059. And meanwhile, women are far less able to contribute to the economy as consumers—especially in retirement.

We hear so much about the pay gap. Indeed, we write so much about the pay gap. But it still doesn't make reports like the Join Economic Committee's any less disturbing. Fast Company's Lydia Dishman drew attention to its findings last month, reminding us once again that gender inequality is bad for everyone. Specifically, the economy.

There are so many nuggets in the JEC report, but a few grabbed me in particular.

One is that women's increasing role in the workforce "has been a major driver of economic growth in recent decades." How much growth, you ask? "The U.S. economy is $2.0 trillion bigger today than it would have been if women had not increased their participation and hours since 1970," the report answers. Lydia highlights a McKinsey Global Institute that says "increasing women’s workforce participation and achieving parity " could increase U.S. GDP by $2.1 trillion. 43 more years of women not getting paid enough gives us a lot to lose.

Unequal pay isn't not just an opportunity cost, either. Currently, women over 75 "are almost twice as likely as men to live in poverty," relying on Social Security. This is a huge portion of the population drawing on government resources, simply because their labor hasn't been adequately rewarded.

The wage gap varies across age, race, location, and industry. "A woman working full time, year-round, earns $10,800 less per year than a man, based on median annual earnings," Lydia writes. "This adds up to nearly a half million dollars over a career." For a "typical Latina woman," the loss of earnings over a career is over a million dollars. This is mindblowing, especially when you remember that most American families depend heavily on women's earnings (40 percent of total family earnings in a median household.)

The JEC report confirms some other things, to keep on hand next time someone starts a fight with us about this at the pub. Or in the boardroom:

- The key number is 79—across the board, women earn 79 percent of what their male counterparts do. Another way to look at this is that 1.5 hours of your standard workday are unpaid.

- The pay gap gets worse with age.

- Women of color are impacted the most.

- Women might be more educated, but it doesn't help. "In fact," the JEC says, "Women are often out-earned by men with less education."

Even accounting for workplace policies around maternity leave and other factors, "there’s still a gap of 40%," writes Lydia, "Which may point to lingering discrimination."

The upside of these findings is that they give us the key to lifting thousands and thousands of families out of poverty. Just start paying everyone the same thing.

Bonus info: See the full JEC report, in all its unsettling glory, online.