American women gain in school, lag at work

WASHINGTON Tue Mar 1, 2011 8:26pm GMT

A student walks across the campus of Columbia University in New York, October 5, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Segar

A student walks across the campus of Columbia University in New York, October 5, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Segar

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. women have made big economic and educational gains in recent years, but they still trail men in terms of pay and participation in the workforce, according to a White House report released on Tuesday.

More women than men have a high school education, more have university degrees, and more have graduate degrees, but at all levels of education, women earn about 75 percent as much as their male counterparts, according to the White House report.

Administration officials touted the document as the first comprehensive federal report on the status of American woman since 1963. They said it would broadly influence policy, although they offered no specific programs that would result from the report.

"When women make less than men for the same work, it impacts the families, who then find themselves with less income," Valerie Jarrett, who chairs the White House Council on Women and Girls, told a conference call with reporters.

"When there's no affordable childcare, it hurts children who wind up in second-rate care or spending afternoons alone in front of a television set," Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, said.

The labor force participation rate for women aged 20 and older nearly doubled from 32 percent in 1948 to 61 percent in 1997, but it has held steady ever since. The rate for men has fallen from about 89 percent in 1948 to 75 percent in 2009, the report said.

The report combines data from several U.S. government agencies on topics including social issues -- fewer women are married than in the past and they are marrying later in life -- education, employment, health and crime and violence.

Women have a longer life expectancy than men, but the gap is decreasing and more women than men report having a chronic medical condition, the report noted. And crime against women has declined, but reported rape rates have remained stable in recent years after declining in the 1990s and women are at greater risk of stalking than men.

"I think it (the report) will inform a wide variety of different policies or programs," Jarrett said.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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