The gap in pay widened between men and women full-time workers last year, surprising analysts who could not explain why women's pay slumped for the first time in four years.
Women made 75.5 cents for every dollar a man made last year, according to Census Bureau figures reported last week in USA Today. That figure in 2002 was 76.6 cents, an all-time high. The median income for women working full time in 2003 was $30,724, which is down .06 percent from 2002.
The figures may seem small, but the Census Bureau says it is the first “statistically significant” decline in women's pay since 1995.
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Observers had few ideas on what caused the wider disparity in pay between men and women.
Joyce Jacobsen, economics professor at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., called the numbers discouraging, but added, “The numbers do fluctuate a lot year-to-year, so I wouldn't call it a trend until I saw one more year."
Since families are ever-more dependent on women as breadwinners, Vicky Lovell, study director for the Institute for Women's Policy Research, called the decline in women's incomes "very worrisome."
"It does suggest that some of the gains women had been making relative to men, they are now losing," she says. "The recession may be officially over, but women are still feeling the effects of the economic slowdown."