The pay gap between men and women in Colorado widened last year to 18 percent from 14 percent in 2016, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the American Association of University Women.
The gap is smaller in the 5th Congressional District, which includes El Paso, Teller, Chaffee, Fremont counties and part of Park County, where women earn an average of $41,947 a year, or 17.3 percent less than the $50,725 in annual wages men receive, the study showed. That is the second-smallest gap among Colorado’s seven congressional districts behind the 13.1 percent gap in the 1st District, which includes Denver and parts of Arapahoe and Jefferson counties.
The gap in the 5th District also widened from 15.2 percent in 2016, when it ranked fourth among the seven congressional districts, and is a major improvement from 2015, when the gap was 24 percent and it ranked fifth.
The 5th District was followed by the 2nd District in Boulder, the 7th and 6th in the Denver area and the 3rd and 4th districts in southern and western Colorado and eastern Colorado, respectively.
Colorado was 21st among states, just behind Oregon and ahead of Texas, and was 2 percentage points narrower than the national gap of 20 percent. Men earned an average of $52,146 last year in Colorado, while women earned $41,977.
California had the smallest gap at 11 percent, while Louisiana had the biggest at 31 percent.
Colorado ranked sixth in 2016. The 2015 gap in Colorado was 19 percent.
“These are relatively small changes that are likely related to conditions in the state’s economy and workforce. The real story is that the wage gap is persistent and stagnant and is not going away without reforms,” said Deborah Vagins, senior vice president of public policy and research for the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that pushes for gender equity.
“The gap has only improved by 5 cents (on the dollar) in the last 20 years.”
The group estimates the pay gap won’t be erased until 2106 without changes in federal, state and local laws, which it believes could close the gap within 12 years. The association is backing the Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced in the House (H.R. 1869) and Senate (S. 819) last year by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., respectively. The bills would amend the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to strengthen enforcement and other provisions, but are stuck in committee.
The group rates pay equity laws in Colorado as moderate.
Legislation that would made “modest improvements” in the state’s equal-pay laws passed the Colorado House but stalled in the Senate, Vagins said.