Flags reading 'Equal Pay Day' are seen during the 'Equal Pay Day' demonstration in Berlin, Germany.
Photograph by Adam Berry — Getty Images
By Kristen Bellstrom
July 1, 2016

The gender pay gap is both simpler and more complex than you might assume. On one hand, men make more than women—case closed. But factor in race and things start to get complicated.

A new report from the Pew Research Center finds that, in 2015, women earned 83% as much as men. However, that gap fluctuates dramatically when the researchers break out their data by white, black, Asian, and Hispanic workers.

Looking at the median hourly earnings of full- and part-time workers in the United States, Pew found that Asian men are the highest earners, bringing in an average $24 per hour. Next come white men, at $21 per hour. Asian women also out-earned their white counterparts, at $18 vs. $17 per hour. Asian and white female workers make more than black ($15 per hour) and Hispanic ($14 per hour) men. Black and Hispanic women lag the rest of the groups, at $13 and $12, respectively.

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As these stats suggest, white and Asian women have had the greatest success narrowing the wage gap with white men. Pew reports that white women have shrunk that gap by 22 cents from 1980 to 2015. Meanwhile, black women narrowed the divide by 9 cents during that same period—and Hispanic women by just 5 cents. Yes, 5 cents of progress in 35 years.

The researchers attribute a portion of these gaps to variations in education, though they acknowledge that there’s clearly more to it. After all, college-educated women continue to earn roughly 70% to 80% of the hourly wages of white college-educated men. Other likely factors include work experience, industry, and, of course, discrimination. Previous Pew reports have cast some light on the role of discrimination, with 27% of women, 40% of blacks, and 20% of Hispanics saying that their gender has made it harder for them to succeed.

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