Rural U.S. states have biggest gender pay gaps, report shows

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The gender pay gap in the United States is widest in rural states and smallest in urban areas, a Congressional report said on Friday.

Women doing the same work as men in the rural states of Louisiana, Utah, Wyoming and West Virginia earn roughly a third less money, according to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress.

Nationwide, women earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to U.S. Census data.

The gender gap is smallest in Washington, D.C. and in New York, the Congressional study said, using an analysis of 2014 census data.

In Puerto Rico, meanwhile, women made nearly 5 percent more than men. Nearly half of the island’s 3.5 million people live below the poverty line, and the economy has been contracting for most of the past decade.

The report also noted how the wage gap widens with age.

Nationwide, women on the low end of the wage scale ages 65 and up have a median retirement income that is 44 percent less than men, it said.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat who oversaw the report’s preparation, said the cumulative impact of lower wages is “devastating” as women throughout their working lives contribute less to retirement plans and get smaller pensions and lower Social Security benefits.

“The result is that women have substantially less income than men in retirement and are much more likely to live in poverty as they grow older,” she said.

The Congressional report was published ahead of Equal Pay Day, a floating event held on the date each year that women’s earnings catch up to men’s previous year’s income.

In the United States, the symbolic day will take place on April 12.