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Why Do Gen Xers Have The Biggest Gender Pay Gap?

Not only do women’s wages stagnate decades before men’s, but you may earn less depending on when you were born.

Why Do Gen Xers Have The Biggest Gender Pay Gap?
[Photo: Gary Burchell, Getty Images; App Photo: Cultura RM, Alys Tomlinson, Getty Images]

It’s hard not to overstate the complexity of the gender wage gap. For those still waving the 77¢ to the dollar flag, it’s important to remember that this particular disparity is found only between white women and their male counterparts in the same jobs. Women of color, immigrants, older women, and millennials all have different earnings ratios.

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But there is also a big difference in the amount of the pay gap among different age groups. According to data from a study on the gender pay gap using salary data from more than 1.4 million full-time employees from PayScale, an online crowd-sourced salary database, the largest generational wage gap is found among Gen Xers at 3.6%. Millennials (defined as those born between 1982-2002) have the lowest gap at 2.3%. Boomer women outnumber men among respondents to the survey (57% vs. 43%) but they still showed a wage gap of 2.7%.

Millennial single parents have the largest gender pay gap when controlling for all measured compensable factors at 3.2%.

Several factors may be playing into the wide wage gap for Gen X women (defined as those born between 1965-1981). PayScale found that salaries for men kept rising until they reached 50 to 55 years of age, and plateaued at a median salary of $75,000. Earnings for women top out at a median of $49,000, hitting that plateau between the ages of 35 and 40, the age of current Gen X women.

Data from EY’s Global Generations study found that women in the U.S. lead their male counterparts (50% to 22%) in taking a break from their career to manage their personal lives. The same study revealed that nearly one in ten U.S. workers say they have “suffered a negative consequence as a result of having a flexible work schedule.” It stands to reason that one of those negative consequences could be a significant cut in pay.

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About the author

Lydia Dishman is a reporter writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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