In 2011, men working full-time earned a median of $48,765. Women earned just $38,373. That difference of more than $10,000 only tells part of the story of the continuing gender wage gap in this country. Depending on the industry, men in some states earn as much as $20,000 to $30,000 more a year than women. In some cases, the difference is even more. Men in corporate managerial positions earn roughly $35,000 more than women working full time in the same field.
Income inequality is severe in some industries, and there are states with concentrations of these businesses. In these states, the gender earnings gap for full-time workers is extremely high. In Wyoming, where there are several of these “pay disparity” occupations, women earned $17,838 less than men in 2011 — the largest disparity among all states. Based on data from the Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey, 24/7 Wall St. identified the worst-paying states for women.
In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Institute for Women’s Policy Research study director Ariane Hegewisch explained that the biggest reason for the pay gap between men and women in these states came down to where people are employed. While the gap in pay still exists in nearly every occupation, she said, it is much narrower in fields such as health care, education and real estate. Nationally, the income gap for educational services is $7,408, while in real estate it is less than $5,000.
In states where more people are employed in blue-collar work, women are more likely to work in sectors where the pay is much lower than men in blue-collar positions.
Hegewisch explained that in states where more workers are blue collar, men are able to find employment in jobs such as resource collection and construction — positions that are still predominantly male and allow for bonuses and overtime and generally higher pay. In North Dakota, for example, the booming natural gas industry employs hundreds of thousands of workers. In 2011, 90.9% of oil, mining and extraction workers in the state were male. Those few women who were employed in that industry earned $46,301 less than men. All five states with the highest proportions of workers in this field are among the 10 with the highest gender wage gap.
In states like North Dakota, women are often left to work in lower-paying fields, especially retail. While the income gender gap is closer to the national wage gap in this field, at less than $9,000, the fact that a disproportionately large number of women are employed in this field results in a wide income gap statewide. In West Virginia — which has one of the greatest gender wage gaps in the country — the largest employer is Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT). As of 2011, 54.8% of West Virginian retail workers were women, the third-highest proportion in the country. Women working full-time in retail in West Virginia earned a median of just $14,304.
In the states with the largest wage gap between men and women, it is not always the case that full-time income for women is lower than in other states. In five of the 10 states, income for women was among the top 10 in the country. However, in those states, earnings among men were even higher. For example, in Massachusetts, women working full-time earned a median of $47,302, the fourth highest in the country. Men in the state, however, earned more than $60,000.
The gap in pay in some of these states is even more pronounced in their cities. In five major metropolitan statistical areas, male pay exceeds female pay by at least $20,000. Most of the 10 metro areas with the widest gender pay gap are in the 10 states with the highest pay gaps. In Casper, Wy., which has the worst pay gap in the country, men earn more than $25,000 more than women.
To identify the states that pay women the least, 24/7 Wall St. compared the median incomes for the past 12 months of both men and women who worked full-time, year-round in each state, based on data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and released as part of the 2011 American Community Survey report. From the ACS, we included in our analysis the proportion of workers in state employed in each industry, as well as the gender distribution and gender-specific income in each of these industries. We also reviewed 2011 unemployment rates.
These are the 10 worst-paying states for women.