Women of all ages, races, ethnic backgrounds and education levels - and in almost every line of work - earned less than men, according to a report issued Tuesday by the American Association of University Women.
Women in the USA earned 77% of what men earned in 2010, says the report from AAUW, which has advocated for pay equity since 1913. Tuesday was Equal Pay Day, which was started in 1996 by the National Committee on Pay Equity to call attention to the gap between men's and women's wages.
The association's report said that in 2010, women's annual median earnings were $36,931, compared to $47,715 for men.
"Women and people of color don't choose to earn less," said Dana Schultz, Wisconsin state director of the 9to5 women's advocacy group. "Many factors contribute to the over-representation of women in undervalued, underpaid occupations."
The American Association of University Women used national and state Census data to determine 2010 annual median earnings for full-time workers older than 16.
According to the report:
•The gender pay gap was smallest in Washington, D.C., where full-time working women earned 91% of what men earned. Vermont and California tied for second, where women earned 84% of what men did.
•The largest disparities were in Wyoming, where women earned 64% of what men did, and Louisiana, where they earned 67%.
•The gap in median weekly income was largest for Hispanic and Latina women, who earned only 61% of what white men earn, on average.
•Median weekly income for black women was 70% of what it was for white men.
•The pay gap was smallest for Asian-American women, whose weekly median income was 88% of the weekly median income for white men.
•The weekly gender pay gap was smaller within racial and ethnic groups than it was when comparing minority women to white men. That's because "African-American, Hispanic, and Latino men, on average, earned substantially less than white men in 2011," the report said.
One-third of working women are their family's breadwinner, which the report says makes equal pay a family issue.
"Now, it's often that it's women's work holding families together," Schultz said.
"Now is the worst time in a tight economy to cut women's pay and deny them the kind of fairness they deserve," she said.
By Marina Villeneuve, Gannett Washington Bureau