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Women Are in the New Sweet Spot of the U.S. Economy, Study Finds

Women’s pay went up 32 percent from 1980 to 2015, while men’s went down 3 percent, according to Pew.

Women still earn less than men, but they've narrowed the gap because they tend to work in jobs that require more social and analytical skills, a new study from the Pew Research Center finds. Those jobs are increasingly prized in the U.S. economy, while jobs calling for physical and manual skills are becoming less important, the study says.

Women's pay went up 32 percent while men's pay went down 3 percent from 1980 to 2015, according to the study, "The State of American Jobs." Those figures are adjusted for inflation and apply to people working full-time, year-round. Take a look: 1 Chart based on employed civilians ages 16 and older. Occupations requiring a higher level of a skill set are those with average to above-average ratings in the importance of the skill set to job performance. Because an individual occupation may require higher levels of more than one skill set, the three categories of occupations are not mutually exclusive.

pew-research-chart

Even after all that progress, women still earned 20 percent less than men—$40,000 vs. $50,000 in median annual earnings for full-time, year-round workers. Pew didn't attempt to explain the gap, but economists tend to attribute it partly to sex discrimination and partly to factors such as women's interrupting their careers to raise children. Plus, even though the U.S. economy is changing in a direction that benefits women, the jobs in which they're most concentrated, such as child care, still often pay less than jobs in fields such as manufacturing, in which men are concentrated.

The report comes in the middle of a presidential campaign in which men are leaning strongly toward Republican Donald Trump, women toward Democrat Hillary Clinton. White men without a college education, who are among the strongest backers of Trump, are the ones who have suffered the biggest losses from changes in the economy. White males with high school degrees badly lost ground to white male college grads from 1996 to 2014, Sentier Research reported [pdf] yesterday. "In 2014, income per cohort member stood at $94,601 for college graduates but only $36,787 for high school graduates," the report says.

The Pew study, which was conducted with the Markle Foundation, also found that the jobs of the future will require more skills and training. But, in a twist, many workers felt that the jobs they have now could be done by people with less education than they have. Eighty percent of people with no college education said that someone with less education could develop the skills and knowledge to do their jobs.

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