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What the Paycheck Fairness Act Means to New Mexico Children

June 4, 2012

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - The Paycheck Fairness Act is up for a vote in the U. S. Senate on Tuesday. The Act points out that nearly four decades after the Equal Pay Act passed, many women earn less than $.80 to the $1.00 earned by men.

Sharon Kayne, communications director, New Mexico Voices for Children, says the idea of paying men more for being the traditional family breadwinner hurts children, as well as women.

"Most single-parent families are headed by women. When you're a single mother, when you live paycheck-to-paycheck, a couple hundred dollars extra can make the difference between keeping the lights turned on or keeping food on the table and not."

In 2008, more than 141,000 New Mexico children lived in households headed by single mothers, according to the KidsCount Data Center.

In addition to taking steps to close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act ensures that women can investigate whether they are being discriminated against. It also strengthens penalties against employers who violate pay discrimination laws. The bill also includes a grant for a salary-negotiation training program for women.

Sarah Crawford, director of workplace fairness for the National Partnership for Women and Families, says that in New Mexico, the pay gap results in an average disparity of more than $8,000 a year. Of the households headed by women in New Mexico, more than one-third live below the poverty level, she says.

"The wage gap robs women of more than 67 weeks of food, seven more months of mortgage and utilities payments on average, 27 more months of family health insurance premiums, or over 2,000 gallons of gas."

According to the National Women's Law Center, for every dollar paid to white non-Hispanic men working full-time year-round in New Mexico in 2010, white, non-Hispanic women working full-time year-round earned 78 cents; African-American women, 56 cents and Hispanic women, 53 cents. Opponents of the Act suggest that this pay discrepancy is a factor of the choices women make, rather than discrimination.

Kayne says when women head the household, the wage disparity tends to victimize their children.

"The fact that these women are not just the only breadwinner but that they're also earning less than their male counterparts means their children are not having the economic opportunities they otherwise would have."

More information about the bill is available at www.nwlc.org.

Renee Blake/Beth Blakeman, Public News Service - NM