The pay gap between male and female full-time workers in 2008 was 20 percent, about the same as in 2007 but still larger than the wage gap in 2005 and 2006, according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In 2008, women who were full-time wage and salary workers had median weekly earnings of $638, or about 80 percent of the $798 median for their male counterparts. Since 1979, the wage gap has narrowed gradually. In that year, women earned about 62 percent as much as men. The narrowest the wage gap has been was 19 percent, which occurred in both 2005 and 2006.
The wage gap is wider among workers over the age of 35 than it is among younger workers. In 2008, women aged 35 and older earned about 75 percent as much as their male counterparts. Among workers 25 to 34 years old, women earned 89 percent as much as men. The wage gap was even narrower among workers 16 to 24 years old (9 percent).
In 2008, Asian-American and white women had earnings that were around 80 percent of those of their male counterparts. By comparison, black women and Hispanic women had earnings that were around 90 percent of those of their male counterparts.
The wage gap has narrowed since 1979, in part, because women have made greater gains in educational levels and movement into higher paying occupations than men have.
In 1979, for example, 35 percent of women and 41 percent of men aged 25 to 64 in the workforce and had been to college. By 2008, 66 percent of women and 59 percent of men had been to college. In addition, the percentage of female workers who've dropped out of high school has fallen much faster over the same period. In 2008, 11 percent of men and 7 percent of women aged 25 to 64 in the workforce were college dropouts.
Since 1979, earnings for women with college degrees have increased by 31 percent after adjustment for inflation, compared with an earnings growth of 18 percent among men with college degrees.