Study: Women’s Economic Status Lags in Half of States

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Study: Women’s Economic Status Lags in Half of States

Emily Crockett

The most striking finding from a new study is that in the ten years since this data was last collected, women’s economic status has gotten worse or stayed the same in almost half of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

A new report gives a letter grade to all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on how much women earn and whether they have good jobs—and only D.C. managed to get an “A.”

The report on women’s employment and earnings is the first in a series of comprehensive data dives by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) into the “Status of Women in the States.”

The most striking finding from the study is that in the ten years since this data was last collected, women’s economic status has gotten worse or stayed the same in almost half of the states.

States were graded on four indicators—the percentage of women who are in the workforce, the percentage of women who are in professional or managerial occupations, women’s median yearly earnings, and the gender wage gap. The earnings measures were based on full-time, year-round work.

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Women’s status has improved on only two of those indicators—managerial or professional status and the wage gap—in the past decade. Median earnings stayed about the same, and the labor force participation, or percentage of women working, went down.

The best composite scores of the four indicators generally went to states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, while Southern states fared the worst. Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Connecticut followed the District of Columbia in the top-five states. In the bottom five: West Virginia was the worst, followed by Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas.

D.C. and Maryland’s economic success might have something to do with the finding that government jobs were the best-paying industry for women, with median earnings of $45,000 per year for full-time work.

Unions were also found to give women a big pay boost; union membership closes the 22-cent average gender wage gap by a hefty 10 cents.

The report finds that women are overrepresented in low-wage industries and underrepresented in higher-wage STEM occupations. The largest gender wage gaps can be found in finance, real estate, and insurance industries, while the smallest pay gaps are found in mining and construction.

Women of color are known to face a much larger wage gap than white women, with Latinas earning the least. This report also breaks that down in greater detail. Among Hispanic women, median wages range from $40,804 for Argentinian women to $22,784 for Honduran women.

Among Asians and Pacific Islanders, women’s median wages range from more than $60,000 for Indian women to $30,000 for Hmong women.

This report was also the first to project, broken down by state, in which year the gender wage gap is likely to finally close. Florida crosses the finish line first in 2038, and the country as a whole follows in 2058—but Wyoming will hang on until 2159.