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Equal pay for moms?

Some people were put off by Patricia Arquette's Oscar acceptance speech. Some felt was insufficiently inclusive, while others were unhappy that a women who is a Hollywood actor, and earns many times per hour what most American workers earn in a week or even month, was raising the issue of equal pay for women.

After all, the Equal Pay Act was passed by Congress and signed by President Kennedy, five years before Arquette was born. Surely this, and a generation of lawsuits involving the requirement of equal pay for workers "who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions" has solved this problem?

But it has not. While she may not have framed the issue as elegantly as possible, she is an actor, not a writer, after all, women still suffer the effects of unequal pay discrimination.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics still calculates that women earn 82 cents for every dollar a man earns. There are many reasons for this, but women bearing and raising children is a significant factor. This often takes women out of the workforce for extended periods, so even if they return at some later point, they have fallen behind men of an equivalent age.

But unequal pay is not evenly distributed. Women who have never been married and presumably have no children, make 96 cents to every a man earns, but married women with children only earn 76 cents.

Because some of the disparity may be due to motherhood and its associated demands, fully equalizing pay between men and women will likely require a significant expansion in the support apparatus that would enable mothers to work.

But, of course, there are still too many occurrences of illegal pay discrimination, so if you feel as if your are being subjected to discrimination, do not assume that there is nothing you can do and that it is "just the way things are."

The Washington Post, "Patricia Arquette gets it: The real gender wage gap is for moms," Lydia DePillis, February 23, 2015

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