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4/5/2017 12:51:00 PM
Equal Pay Day: Indiana, Elkhart lag in addressing gender pay gap

Jordan Fouts, Elkhart Truth

ELKHART — Kym Baker was shocked when she learned just how bad the gender pay gap is in Elkhart County.

In the Second Congressional District, which includes Elkhart and St. Joseph counties, women earn an average of 70.5 percent of what men make, according to the American Association of University Women. That makes it the seventh widest gap among Indiana's nine districts and worse than Indiana's average of 76 cents to the dollar.

"That's a huge gap, that really blows me away," said Baker, co-chairwoman of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce Women's Council. "It's insulting."

Tuesday was Equal Pay Day, created by the National Committee on Pay Equity 21 years ago to draw attention to the pay gap. It's held in April to show how many more months women have to work to take home what men do in a year.

Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg both issued proclamations declaring April 4 Equal Pay Day in their cities. Neese's proclamation notes that over a working lifetime, the pay gap costs an average American woman and her family between $700,000 and $2 million in lost wages and impacts retirement benefits.

That not only hurts families, particularly the children of single mothers, it also reinforces reliance on assistance programs to make up for the lower wages, said Jeanne Liechty, a Goshen College professor of social work.

"The irony is, when employers don't provide living wages, it's the taxpayers who pay to close the gap," she said.

CENTS TO THE DOLLAR

In terms of dollars, according to the American Association of University Women's 2015 data, women in Indiana's second district make an average of $31,961 a year compared to the $45,318 that men earn

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