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The Sweet Reality of a 23 Cent per Hour Raise

Women only make 77 cents for every dollar that a man makes. Big deal?

The biggest.

Twenty-three cents may not sound like much, but for me, that change would add up – and it would have a meaningful impact.  Here’s how:

  • With a 23-cent raise for every dollar I earn, I could pay off my student loans in less than two years, compared with the 7 years that it will take me now. But I’m not all business. Maybe I wouldn’t spend the entire raise on student loans – maybe I’d eat out somewhere nice, treat myself to a new book, or buy a train ticket for a weekend away. Even if I spent just half of this increased income repaying my loan debt, it would shave off four years of monthly payments. And if I wanted to be the responsible adult my parents keep telling me to be, I could forgo (some of) that fun and use the other half to put away monthly retirement savings, something I cannot currently afford to do.
  • As a recent college graduate, child care isn’t yet on my mind, but looking further into the future, thousands of hours of that 23-cent shortage will make a huge difference. With the income women lose annually because of the wage gap, I could pay for a year and a half of child care costs for a four year old, with over $100 to spare.  Access to affordable, quality child care ensures that women are able to work to help support their families, and this ability is undermined when women lose on average over $11,000 a year simply because they are female.
  • The additional income from closing the wage gap could cover my current rent for almost a year, but say I instead start saving that money now - it would cover the first six years of mortgage payments if I bought a house around age 30.

Talk to any young professional trying to pay off debt, any working mother trying to afford child care expenses, or any elderly woman whose Social Security benefits are less than men’s after a lifetime of lower wages, and 23 cents per dollar starts to sound like a lot.  Putting the wage gap in real terms makes it easy to understand the urgent importance of passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, and implementing other policies that would help close the wage gap, such as raising the federal minimum wage.

When you get down to it, the wage gap could be illustrated in a thousand ways. It could mean a four-year daily supply of my favorite pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (mint chocolate cookie!), or two months’ worth of daily breakfast pastries for my entire office. And while that certainly makes equal pay sound sweet, the reality of getting rid of that gap between men and women couldn’t be sweeter.

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