Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Crist has started outlining what he wants to change about Florida, and he’s starting with how much women earn.
"Women in Florida make 83 cents for every dollar a man makes," Crist said in a campaign email sent out July 29, 2014, the same day he announced his First Day of Fairness plan.
The plan outlines a series of executive orders Crist promised to make on his first day in office if he is elected. The potential orders promote causes like government transparency, raising the minimum wage among businesses contracted with the state, and, in this case, ending gender wage discrimination for employees of those contractors.
PolitiFact has checked many claims about women making less than men, especially the past few years. Is Crist right about them making only 83 cents on the dollar in Florida, or is he short-changing voters? Time to check the paychecks.
Measuring the gap
The Crist campaign told us they took the figure from an April 2013 release by the National Partnership for Women & Families, a Washington-based a think tank focusing on women’s issues.
The factsheet reads, "In Florida, on average, a woman who holds a full-time job is paid $33,823 per year while a man who holds a full-time job is paid $40,951 per year. This means that women in Florida are paid 83 cents for every dollar paid to men, amounting to a yearly gap of $7,128 between men and women who work full time in the state."
Those numbers are from a larger report by the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2011 American Community Survey, which estimated median annual earnings for men and women who worked full-time, year-round over the prior 12 months.
It’s worth noting right now that this data has already been revised. An April 2014 release from the same think tank updated the numbers from the 2012 Census survey estimates that Floridian women are making 84 cents on the dollar. That’s not what we’d consider a huge increase, but it still is a discrepancy compared to Crist’s claim. (His campaign didn’t tell us why they used the lower number.)
But the Census Bureau isn’t the only federal agency that tracks income data. The Bureau of Labor Statistics measures in terms of weekly wages, not yearly. Unlike the Census Bureau, this method does not account for people who are self-employed, but it does include some people not measured in the Census Bureau’s annual figures, like some teachers, construction workers and seasonal workers.
These BLS numbers show that Florida women who worked full time in wage and salary jobs had median usual weekly earnings of $668 in 2011, which was 84 percent of men’s median weekly earnings. That edged up slightly to 85 percent in 2012.
Nationally, the comparable figures from 2012 show a similar pattern: Census shows the gap at about 77 cents, while BLS says women make 82 percent of what men make. Both evaluations say Floridian men and women make less than the national median income, although the gender wage gap is marginally smaller.
Why is that? There are several reasons, and none of them are flattering for Florida.
Alayne Unterberger, associate research director at Florida International University’s Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy, said there’s a high level of working, single mothers in Florida, and they tend to have less education and fewer quality job opportunities.
The National Women’s Law Center says almost 66 percent of Florida women make $10.10 an hour or less, and that while men only need a high school degree to move out of low-wage earning status, women usually require at least a bachelor’s degree.
The slightly better wage gap is only because men in Florida are likelier to earn less than the national average at a greater rate than the state's women are, shrinking the difference.
"Historically in Florida both male and female wages have been depressed," Unterberger said. She pointed out that a study FIU published in 2014 found that the wage gap has only decreased about 1.8 percent since 1990. "We haven’t done a very good job of narrowing that gap over the years."
Using 2013 mean wages (not median), the FIU study adjusted for age, education level and occupation. It found that overall, women in Florida make about 82 cents on the dollar compared to men.
Caveats apply to what all these evaluations actually show. Gender wage gaps nationally are different from occupation to occupation, as the Institute for Women’s Policy Research showed in its report on the top 20 occupations for women for 2011. While the gap was lesser in fields like nursing (96 cents to every dollar) and cashiering (90 cents), it was higher in accounting (77 cents) and financial advising (66 cents).
While discrimination is partly to blame, another factor is that men and women historically enter different occupational fields at different rates, a trend known as "occupational segregation." The Institute showed that women more often choose to be receptionists, nurses and teachers, for example, while men pursue paths as truck drivers, managers and software engineers. That means overall, women are more often employed in lower-paying fields than are men.
Women also disproportionately earn college degrees that lead to lower-paying jobs than men, and take more time off work for pregnancy and child care, according to a 2009 analysis by the nonpartisan CONSAD Research Corp. in Pittsburgh. That trend, though lessened by increased male involvement in child rearing, often restricts women’s career options and hours worked.
Crist said, "Women in Florida make 83 cents for every dollar a man makes."
The figure came from a think tank using 2011 Census annual median wage data, and was bumped up a penny to 84 cents for 2012 in its latest statement on the issue. While there are other ways to evaluate the difference between what each gender earns, with several reasons why that’s the case, the Census numbers are one widely accepted measure. We rate the claim Mostly True.