Working women in their early twenties are close to catching up to their male counterparts in median earnings, according to Labor Department data. Women in most age groups have made gains since 1979, but full-time working women ages 65 and older have gained no ground in closing the wage gap.
This graph from the Labor Department shows women's weekly earnings as a percentage of men's in 1979 and 2008, by age group.
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The gap narrowed for women ages 25 to 34--they earned 89 percent of what men did in 2008, compared with 68 percent in 1979. The ratio for women-to-men ages 45 to 54 jumped from 57 percent in 1979 to 75 percent last year.
(Note that this chart's median includes data from full-time workers in all occupations and does not offer occupation-specific comparisons. Women and men "differ significantly" in occupational distribution, according to the Labor Department. Women are rarer in construction, production and transportation jobs, and are "far more concentrated in administrative support jobs.")
According to a Labor Department report, "the women's-to-men's earnings ratio peaked at 81 percent in 2005 and 2006," after rising through the 1980s and 1990s.
The earnings gap is greater for Asian women and white women, who, on average, earned less than 80 percent of what their male counterparts earned last year. Black women and Hispanic women earned about 90 percent of their male counterparts' earnings.
Some other points from this report: "Women’s long-term earnings growth reflects, in part, gains
in their education levels and their movement into higher paying occupations over time." Women, still, however, are more likely to choose jobs in education and healthcare, where earnings will tend to be lower. [See 9 things to know about the job market of the future]
Women who have never married earn 94.2 percent of their unmarried male counterparts' earnings. Those who were married with a spouse present earned 75.5 percent of their male counterparts' earnings.