Georgia's fourth congressional district leads the nation in gender-based pay equity

Hank Johnson

Women in Georgia’s 4th Congressional District are approaching pay equity with men, a study of U.S. Census Bureau statistics reveals.

The district, which includes portions of DeKalb, Rockdale, Newton and Gwinnett counties, is among the nation's leaders in gender-based pay equity.

The data analysis, done by the National Partnership for Women and Families, shows that in the 4th District, women make around 98 cents for every dollar earned by men, and the median annual wage is $41,085 for men and $40,277 for women.

Eleven other congressional districts where women earn at least 96 cents of every dollar earned by men are in Arizona (District 7); California (Districts 5, 34, 37 and 47); Florida (District 24); New York (Districts 7, 13, 14 and 15); and Texas (District 30).

The National Partnership for Women and Families released the information on April 9, which is observed as National Equal Pay Day, the day each year that symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.

The group said that of the 435 congressional districts nationwide, the 12 are the only places in America where “women are either paid the same or more than men, or the margin of error is large enough and the earnings ratio close enough that it cannot be said with at least 90 percent confidence that there is a gender wage gap.”

In the neighboring 5th Congressional District, represented by John Lewis, women make just 82 cents for every dollar paid to a man. They make an average of $42,152 a year – almost $10,000 less than the average of $51,587 earned by men.

Johnson, a Democrat who has represented the 4th District since 2007,  said the relative pay equity is one of many special things about the district.

“While I’m encouraged that we have pay equity in my district – or something close to it – the truth is that we have so much work to do in Georgia and the nation, where the pay gap is still unacceptable – especially among Native American, Latina and African-American women,” Johnson said April 10. “We as lawmakers must do more to address pay disparity – and that starts by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act.”   

In Georgia, women make just 82 cents in every dollar paid to men, equating to a yearly average pay difference of $8,434. Statewide, Latina women earn about $26,841 less per year than white, non-Hispanic men. Black women earn about $19,319 less, and white, non-Hispanic women about $10,957 less.

Debra Ness, the National Partnership for Women and Families president, said it takes women nearly four months more to catch up to men.

“Equal Pay Day is a disturbing reminder that women overall have had to work more than three months into 2018 just to catch up with what men were paid in 2017, and black women and Latinas must work considerably further into the year,” she said.

If the gender wage gap were eliminated, a working woman in Georgia would have enough money each year, on average, to purchase an additional 15.3 months of child care, nine months of rent, or one year of tuition and fees for a four-year public university.

Statewide, women lose a combined total of more than $26.3 billion every year to the gender wage gap.

Vicki Shabo, the national partnership’s vice president for workplace policies and strategies, said public policies are urgently needed to improve women’s access to decent-paying jobs without discrimination.

“The gender-based wage gap results in staggering losses that make it harder for women, in Georgia and across the country, to pay for food and shelter, child care, college tuition, birth control and other health care,” Shabo said April 9.

The nonpartisan partnership urges lawmakers to pass legislation to end sexual harassment that impedes women’s job advancement, stop discrimination against pregnant women, advance paid family and medical leave and paid sick days, and increase access to high-quality, affordable reproductive health care.

“If our country is to thrive, we must root out bias in wages, reject outdated stereotypes and stop penalizing women for having children and caring for their families,” Ness said.

The partnership wants Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, Fair Play Act, Healthy Families Act, Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act.

The proposed legislation would reduce pay discrimination, establish stronger workplace protections, and guarantee workers the right to earn paid sick days, as well as create a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program, protect pregnant workers, and restore abortion coverage.

“The wage gap cannot be explained by women’s choices,” Ness said. “It’s clear that discrimination contributes to it – and equally clear that it’s causing grave harm to women, families and the country.”

Nationally, white non-Hispanic women are typically paid 79 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, black women 63 cents and Latinas 54 cents.

Asian women are paid 87 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, although some ethnic subgroups of Asian women fare much worse.

The wage gap for mothers is 71 cents for every dollar paid to fathers.

The national partnership’s study identifies that Georgia has the 17th smallest cents-on-the-dollar gap in the nation.

The largest cents-on-the-dollar gap is in Louisiana and Utah, followed closely by West Virginia and Montana.

The congressional district with the highest gender-based pay gap in the country is Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, where the average full-time, year-round female employee earns $22,522 less per year than the average equivalent male worker. That equates to 62 cents on the dollar.

There are 15 other congressional districts with similar wage gaps, where women earn less than 70 cents on every dollar paid to men.

They are in Alabama (District 1); Arizona (District 5); Illinois (District 6); Indiana (District 2); Louisiana (Districts 3 and 6); Michigan (District 11); Mississippi (District 3); New Jersey (District 7); Texas (Districts 4, 11, 27 and 36); Utah (District 1); and Washington (District 8).