Top States for Gender Pay Equality

 Andrew Soergel

Though laws have been enacted that formally bar employment discrimination based on gender, a gap in earnings between men and women has stubbornly persisted into 2018.

Tuesday again marks Equal Pay Day – which typically falls in early April and represents how far into the new year a woman would have to work to bring in the same salary a man did during the previous calendar year.

The American Association of University Women estimates women make 80 cents on the dollar compared with what men bring in, with more considerable disparities between whites and black and Latina women. The Pew Research Center, meanwhile, estimates women made 82 percent of what men made last year.

Studies across the board suggest gender equality has made strides in recent years – but many still point to the fact that women typically bring home a smaller paycheck than men during each pay period, which compounds their difference in earnings over time.

All told, activists contend millions of American workers have been left shortchanged and that the economy suffers as a result. The Institute for Women's Policy Research estimated in 2017 that nearly $513 billion would be added to Americans' incomes if men and women received equal pay – representing about 2.8 percent of the country's 2016 gross domestic product.

Critics of the wage inequality concept in the past have pointed to differences in educational attainment, a lack of work experience and the decision to have children as natural factors driving the difference between men's and women's pay. But women now account for the majority of college students and have made strides across industries – though there's still some evidence that becoming a parent disproportionately hurts women at work more than men.

A recent Pew survey found that 25 percent of women said taking time off for the birth of a child had a negative impact on their jobs, compared with just 13 percent of men.

Still, wage equality varies in the U.S. by location, with states like New York and California consistently leading the pack in closing the pay gap between men and women. A recent state-level pay gap analysis spearheaded by the AAUW placed those two states at the top of its rankings, with Louisiana, Utah and West Virginia bringing up the rear.

U.S. News made similar findings in its most recent Best States rankings, which placed New Hampshire, Vermont and Maryland at the front of the pack in terms of overall equality, with Utah, North Dakota and Idaho lagging behind. Click through to take a look at the top-ranked states for pay equality.

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