Hawai‘i gender pay gap largely driven by motherhood, according to latest report

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Full-time working women in Hawaiʻi made 86 cents for every dollar earned by a man, while the national average was 84 cents for every dollar, according to data between 2015 to 2022 from the American Community Survey (ACS).

UHERO report

See the entire report here.

A new University of Hawaiʻi Economic Research Organization (UHERO) report, authored by UHERO Research Economist Rachel Inafuku, uses data from ACS to take a deeper look into Hawaiʻi’s gender pay gap to further understand the role of gender in the workforce.

Hawaiʻi’s gender pay gap aligns with the findings that the disparity is largely driven by motherhood. In Hawaiʻi, mothers earn 74% of what fathers earn, while women without children make 99% of the income of men without children.


According to the report, several studies reveal that women are more likely to prioritize home activities, often resulting in career sacrifices. One report indicated that women have a higher likelihood of reducing their work hours to care for their children compared to men.

While early career earnings between men and women are nearly identical, the arrival of a woman’s first child significantly impacts her income. Unlike men within the same profession, mothers experience a notable decline in earnings that don’t rebound at the same pace as men.

Instead, mothers are more likely to choose family-friendly jobs that have shorter work hours and fewer career advancement opportunities.


Additional key findings from the report include:

  • Women in Hawaiʻi are disproportionately represented among low earners and notably less represented among high earners. In UHERO’s analysis, women constitute 29% of individuals in the highest observed earnings bracket—those making more than $160,000 annually—yet they account for more than half of those earning less than $20,000 per year.
  • At every level of education, men earn more than women. The gap in earnings varies depending on the level of education, with women holding associate degrees earning 74% of what their male counterparts earn, and 93% for those with a high school diploma or GED.
  • Women earn less than men in 74% of occupations. Among the top five highest-paid occupations in the state, the median earnings for women were lower than they were for men in four of them. In contrast, women outearned men in three of the five lowest-paying occupations.
  • Although women, on average, earn less than men, they tend to hold positions of greater occupational prestige. Women constitute a majority of the workforce in jobs ranked within the top 25% for occupational prestige. Nonetheless, men predominantly occupy roles in the highest tier, specifically the top 5% of prestigious positions.
  • The gender pay gap differs among ethnic groups. The pay gap ranges from women earning 81% of men’s earnings within the Micronesian community to women earning 98% of men’s earnings in the Southeast Asian community.

“Aside from public policy, closing the gender pay gap requires a multifaceted approach that involves a shift towards a more equitable distribution of caregiving responsibilities between genders, as well as the adoption of more flexible work arrangements by employers, among other measures,” according to the report. “By addressing these barriers for women in the workforce, Hawaiʻi can strive towards a future where men and women have equal opportunities to prosper financially in the labor market.”

Read the entire report on UHERO’s website.


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