Friday, January 7, 2011

Want to Make More Money? Get a Job in D.C.

Seal of the District of Columbia.Image via WikipediaWe hear it all the time – women only make 78 cents for every dollar men make. But the wage gap varies dramatically depending on where you live.

According to the US Census Bureau American Community Survey data, both men and women alike make the most money in the District of Columbia (with median annual salaries for full-time workers of 61.9K and 54.6K respectively). Even more notable is the fact that in that state, women earn a full 88.2% of what men earn, a healthy ten percentage points higher than the average discrepancy.

Other states where women earn more per dollar than the average (when compared to men’s salaries) include Arizona and California (each at 82.7%), New York (82.5%), and Nevada (82.2%).

In Connecticut, the state with the second-highest median salary for men (59.3K per year), women earn only 73.9 cents on the dollar as men, with a median salary of 43.9K.

Where do women earn the least when compared to men’s salaries?

Wyoming and Louisiana are the states that have that distinction, with comparative salaries of only 65.5% and 66.4% respectively, followed by Utah (68.1%) and West Virginia (69.2%). There is more than a 22-point spread between the state with the highest comparative salaries for women and the lowest.

Where do women earn the most?

Surprisingly, D.C. stands alone in being able to boast a median salary for women over 50K. The other states where women earn the most include Massachusetts, Maryland, and New Jersey, with median salaries for women between 44K and 45K.


Anon_e_mouse said...

Colette, I'm sure there are certain folks out there who would be happy to hear that the District of Columbia has achieved statehood... but last I knew that wasn't the case. Also, I believe that this statistic is somewhat misleading, since I believe that it looks at people who work in a given jurisdiction, not people who actually live in that jurisdiction. If you look at just those who reside there I believe you will see quite a different picture.

Colette said...

Anon-e-Mouse, the data is based on the US Census, which I believe is based on where people live. And yes, DC is not a state -- but for some reason the government measures it as one. I went back to look at the survey and interestingly, DC also has a high percent below poverty level -- 18.3% -- one of the highest.

Carol Kilgore said...

And the fight for equality continues.

Colette said...

An e-mail reader just sent me a comment which I want to share with the audience here (because what fun is this if no one ever disagrees with me?) This commenter said:

Gender gap surveys are probably the most distorted piece of economic based salary comparison data that gets released in this country. The surveys are always predicated on simple "top-line" aggregated salary statistical totals without ANY consideration to REAL statistical analysis. And he quotes an article that says:

"All the relevant factors that affect pay -- occupation, experience, seniority, education and hours worked -- are ignored. ... Surveys have shown for years that women tend to place a higher priority on flexibility and personal fulfillment than do men, who focus more on pay. Women tend to avoid jobs that require travel or relocation, and they take more time off and spend fewer hours in the office than men do. Men disproportionately take on the most dirty, dangerous and depressing jobs."

This was a shortened version of the e-mail he sent me, but I think it fairly gets at the essence of his comment.

Liz Fichera said...

Don't most people who live in Washington D.C. work for the federal government? It would be interesting to know that statistic too.

Interesting post!

Colette said...

Liz, I don't have a specific stat on this but yes -- a large proportion of the people who live in DC work for the federal government. And the lower disparity in salaries between men and women can also be attributed to that fact. I did find anon_e-mouse's comment interesting though -- there;s also a high percentage of people below the poverty level in DC.

Steveinpok said...

Colette, what was your experience as an executive in the very large corp. from which you retire? Was there any difference in M/F salaries in comparable positions?

Colette said...

Steveinpok, there's always outliers, but there was a difference. Hard to quantify. What I will also say is that the company tried hard so event he playing field -- even had programs at salary time that identified people paid much lower than others in same level. What I will say is that every example of these that I saw (my experience only) they were women who were underpaid. I will also say that often these women had taken a leave of absence (and hence maybe missed a pay raise cycle or two).

Rat Racer No More? said...

Hi Colette -- Recognizing that very few dynamics that we observe in the world are conveniently based on one or two variables, I think your anonymous commenter makes a valid observation.

One really does need to conduct a more controlled analysis in which you compare men and women with similar paths (age, education, years in the workplace, etc.). Simply focusing on the top-line statistics will certainly distort the picture because they don't take into account the historically traditional paths that we take based on gender.

Frankly, I've always wondered if an elephant in the room where these discussions / analyses take place actually is a market function.

That is I wonder if, whether they realize it or not, employers are discounting (in Financial Analysis sense) for the economic risk factor of a proportion of their highly educated, experienced, skilled, capable, etc. female employees who, after a relatively short number of years, make a lifestyle choice to focus on parenting during the years in which others in their age group -- female as well as male -- accrue a significant amount of their career experience.

In addition to the possible economic risk-based discounting that I described, the period during which their peers continued to focus on accruing career-specific experience and a "track record," presumably puts these women at an economic/earning-power disadvantage if/when they return to the workplace.

Presumably not the only variables at play, but possibly some significant ones that bear a closer look?

Truth be told, I suspect that the social scientists who conduct this sort of research are analyzing all of these factors. I further wonder if the journalists who communicate to we among The Masses, don't look closely enough at the sub-surface details of the analysis?

Colette said...

Rat Racer, I think that's a very good point. I really do believe that there is an element of the inequity that has to do with the choices women make -- having children, taking time off. I don't think it accounts for the entire difference.

The "systems" that are put in place to measure these things today don't take a look at the entire picture.

Dave E said...

There are lies , damned lies and statistics.
The problem with comparing averages is that they don't take into account the actual number of samples.
So it's not rally viable to compare say the average of 1000 samples to say the average of two samples. It's just plain misleading.
I am not saying the discrepancy in male vs female wages is not real but I don't think the the comparison in this case is truly valid either. I am sure there are plenty of women that earn more than many men but unless you compare like with like it is really not a valid comparison.

Colette said...

Dave E, it is interesting how numbers can be spun. I do think most are meaningless without further analysis.