The attention paid to income and wealth inequality spurred by the French economist Thomas Piketty’s best-selling opus, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” comes with a caveat from some of its fans: What about women?
The question may seem odd given that when it comes to wages, women have made far more progress than men over the past three decades. Since the 1980s, men without a college education have seen their real wages — after taking inflation into account — decline 5 to 25 percent. The lower the education level, the steeper the drop.
By contrast, for most women, real wages have been climbing. And while both male and female professionals have enjoyed larger paychecks, women’s gains have far outpaced men’s, rising more than 30 percent among the most educated.
It’s at the lowest income levels that the burden on women stands out. Not only are they more likely than men to be in a minimum-wage job, but women are also much more likely to be raising a family on their own.
“Inequality is rising among women as well as men, but at the bottom, women are struggling with some dimensions of these problems that men aren’t, which is raising and supporting these families as single heads of households,” said Francine Blau, an economist at Cornell University.
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