UW Researchers Document Continuing Gender Wage Gap in Wyoming

UW Researchers Document Continuing Gender Wage Gap in Wyoming

LARAMIE — A new study by University of Wyoming economists Anne Alexander and Chian Jones Ritten shows Wyoming’s gender wage gap persists, to the detriment of the state’s families and economy.

Their report, “The Wage Gap in Wyoming in 2022: How Gender, Race and Ethnicity Affect Pay Equity,” was released recently by the Wyoming Women’s Foundation in partnership with the Equality State Policy Center and the Wyoming Council for Women. In addition to the work by Alexander and Jones Ritten, UW’s Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center provided data assistance.

According to the report, women make 75 cents for every dollar men make in Wyoming.

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“Regardless of methodology, Wyoming consistently ranks last or near last in wage gap analyses, even when adjusted for cost of living and regional prices. Over the course of a year, this wage gap results in an estimated loss of $1.5 billion to the Wyoming economy,” Alexander and Jones Ritten wrote. “The average working woman in Wyoming loses enough money during a year from the gender wage gap to buy a total of 108 more weeks of food, 12 more months of mortgage and utilities payments, 21 more months of rent or 8,402 additional gallons of gas.”

While there are multiple ways to calculate the difference between men’s and women’s wages, this report used data from the American Community Survey microdata that are averaged over the previous five years. The researchers selected this method because, as the report states, it “allows us to include both full- and part-time workers and does not conflate the wage gap with hours worked, since men, on average, work more hours (34.4 per week) than women (32.3 hours per week).” The authors consider this the current most unbiased method of reporting the gap.

A report released by the Wyoming Women’s Foundation in early 2016 found that Wyoming women made 69 cents for every dollar men made. However, because previous reports have included only women and men working full time year-round, the gap found in the newest report is not directly comparable to the 2016 numbers.

While direct comparison over time is sacrificed, the new method provides a more inclusive picture of Wyoming’s current wage gap. Because many workers work part time, including their wages provides insight into the wage disparities of more Wyomingites.

“The continuing wage gap for Wyoming women has real and enduring consequences for them and their families in lost long-term wealth and income,” the researchers wrote. “Eliminating the gender wage gap would provide critical income to families living in poverty and to all households where women are the primary or co-breadwinner. Aiming to eliminate the gender wage gap also would likely increase retirement security, reduce reliance on public assistance, and improve food security and community health for Wyomingites.”

Discussion in the report includes factors associated with the wage gap; consequences of the wage gap for Wyoming; and the impacts of COVID-19 on the wage gap, along with suggestions for how Wyoming can address wage inequality. The report found that more than 90 percent of the wage gap may be attributed to discrimination. The new report also includes discussion and data on the gaps associated with race and ethnicity in Wyoming.

Alexander is a faculty member in the Department of Economics in UW’s College of Business; she also has an appointment in the College of Arts and Sciences’ School of Politics, Public Affairs and International Studies. Jones Ritten is a faculty member in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics in UW’s College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources.