Women under 30 outearn their male counterparts in 16 metropolitan areas around the country, a new Pew Research Center analysis found.
In addition, they are at pay parity in six metro areas. To be sure, their pay still lags men's in 228 locations. Yet, the news is encouraging, said Richard Fry, a senior researcher at Pew, which analyzed Census Bureau data from 2015 to 2019.
Nationally, women under 30 who work full time, year-round earn about 93% of what their male peers earn. In 2000, it was 88%, he said.
"One of the reasons the pay gap has narrowed is the well-known fact that young women are substantially outpacing young men in completing college," Fry pointed out.
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"They have an education advantage."
In the Washington, D.C., and New York metro areas, for instance, young women earn 102% of what young men earn when taking into account median annual earnings for full-time, year-round workers. In D.C., 60% of women under 30 have at least a bachelor's degree, compared with 45% of young men, Fry noted. In the New York area, 59% of young women had at least a bachelor's, compared with 43% of young men, he said.
It's not just about education, however. There are also different occupational and industrial opportunities, depending on the area, Fry said. For instance, the area with the largest gender pay gap, where young women make 67% of their male peers, is Elkhart-Goshen, Indiana. It has a lot of manufacturing and is known as the "RV capital of the world," thanks to its share of global recreational vehicle production.
"The fact that the gap seems to have narrowed or closed in the major American cities is certainly cause for some celebration," said Gloria Blackwell, CEO of the American Association of University Women, which has long examined gender pay disparities
"The major cities obviously represent the exceptions and not the rules," she added. "A pay gap still exists with the majority of women in the country."
Where women under 30 earn more
Here are the metro areas where women under 30 outearn their male peers, according to Pew.
- Wenatchee, Washington
- Morgantown, West Virginia
- Barnstable Town, Massachusetts
- Gainesville, Florida
- Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida
- San Diego-Carlsbad, California
- Yuba City, California
- New York-Newark-Jersey City (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania)
- Washington, Arlington-Alexandria (D.C., Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia)
- San Angelo, Texas
- Champaign-Urbana, Illinois
- Lebanon, Pennsylvania
- Iowa City, Iowa
- Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, California
- Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, California
- Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Where there is pay parity
- Flagstaff, Arizona
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, California
- Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California
- Richmond, Virginia
- San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, California
- Urban Honolulu, Hawaii
National gender pay gap
To be sure, on a national level, women overall made 83 cents for every $1 earned by men in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That's up from 82 cents in 2019.
Yet the 1-cent closing of the gender pay gap isn't a true reflection of what's happening now, said Ruth Thomas, pay equity analyst at compensation management firm Payscale.
That's because so many women in low-paying fields lost their jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic, she said.
"The average pay of women has gone up, because those low-wage women have left," Thomas said. "That has effectively closed the pay gap, but it's like a false closing of the pay gap."
Payscale released its own gender pay gap estimate of 82 cents for women to every dollar a man earns. It was culled from the more 6 million profiles of pay data on its website, which is slightly weighted toward higher-educated people.
Thomas believes it may take many years to realize the full impact of the pandemic, but believes there's a likelihood the gender pay gap will get worse in the next year.
Hope for the future
Despite the concern over the current state of affairs and the potential impact of the pandemic on women's wages, experts have some hope for the future.
States are focusing on pay equity and pay transparency, as are companies. Two-thirds of employers plan to address pay equity this year, a February survey by Payscale found.
"There are so many reasons why employers need to start tackling the pay gaps in their organization," Thomas said. "This will start to gain momentum, and I'm sure we'll see a lot of positive activity over the next two to three years."
Women have a front-seat view to the changes, which can also make them more empowered.
"As younger women become more aware, they're stepping into the workplace more with that knowledge," Blackwell said.
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