Despite improving since the 1960s, the gender pay gap is still quite wide in the United States. Moreover, the gap seems to have leveled off in recent years, remaining at a substantial level. In 2012, women’s median earnings was just 78.3% those of men’s median earnings. In dollar terms, women made $10,404 less than men that year.
Income disparity between men and women is not even across the country. Female workers in Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina, made nearly as much as men in the area in 2012. On the other hand, women in Provo-Orem, Utah, had median earnings of just 63.4% of what their male counterparts earned in 2012. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed America’s 100 most populous metro areas to find the cities with the smallest and widest gender wage gap.
Several factor have an impact on gender pay gap, including women’s participation in the workforce, the dominant industry, life choices, and labor laws, to name a few. Some industries pay men and women more equally than others. Most notably, in the construction sector, women’s median earnings were nearly identical to men’s in 2012. Still, across the U.S. women earned considerably less than men in a number of industries, including finance and insurance, where the median earnings for women were just 56% those of men.
Industries that paid women poorly tended to be less prominent in the cities with the narrowest wage gap. One such industry is manufacturing, where nationwide women had median earnings equal to just 73% those of men in 2012. In seven of the nation’s 10 metro areas with the narrowest gap, manufacturing comprised 25% or less of total employment.
Similarly, jobs with the wider gender pay gaps were less prominent in cities with a narrow gap. According to Ariane Hegewisch, study director at the Institute For Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), in many cases commission-based jobs, such as sales jobs, can have larger pay gaps. “A lot of it depends on whether you have access to fungible issues such as bonus, commission, end of year [compensation],” Hegewisch told 24/7 Wall St.
Culture may also play a role in determining women’s pay in some parts of the country. Hegewisch gave Utah as an example. “The state has a very large wage gap but has very well educated women, and I’m sure that has something to do with the ideas of women and family and work,” Hegewisch said. Indeed, both the Provo and Ogden, Utah, metro areas are among the 10 metro areas with the widest wage gap.
A small gender wage gap in a particular city does not necessarily mean women are paid well compared with women in other cities. For example, women working full-time in Bridgeport — where the gender gap was among the worst — earned a median of $51,649 in 2012, considerably more than in other cities. Female residents of the McAllen metro area, on the other hand, earned less than $30,000, but the area’s gender wage gap was among the smallest nationwide.
Based on figures published by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2012, 24/7 Wall St. identified the metropolitan statistical areas with the largest and smallest differences in median earnings between men and women. We also considered median earnings for specific sectors, sub-sectors, and occupations, as well as median household income. Data on the percentage of women and men in specific sectors, as well as the contribution of such sectors to total employment in a metro area was also reviewed.
These are the best (and worst) paying cities for women.