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Gender Pay Gap Closing with Young Women Earning More Than Men

Wage Gap Reverses Due to Education and Three Key Factors That Benefit Women

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Updated June 12, 2014
The long-lamented pay gap between men and women is finally closing, according to a new study released September 1, 2010. Conducted by the research firm Reach Advisors, the study finds that that unmarried, childless women age 22-30 who live in cities are earning more than their male counterparts.

How much more? The median-full time salary of these women is 8% higher than men in the same age group. In several cities, that figure is significantly higher.

These findings held true for 147 of the largest 150 cities in the US. The best news came out of Atlanta and Memphis, where women in this demographic group are earning up to 21% more than men. The same higher earnings trend for women exists in other large cities including New York (17%), San Diego (15%) and Los Angeles (12%), and even smaller urban areas such as Raleigh-Durham, NC (14%) and Charlotte, NC (14%).

Reach Advisors President James Chung came up with these numbers after analyzing data from 2,000 communities obtained from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. Chung says the role reversal in the earnings gap is due to education: ""Nearly three-quarters of girls who graduate from high school head to college, vs. two-thirds of the boys. But they don't stop there. Women are now 1.5 times more likely than men to graduate from college or earn advanced degrees."

US Census figures from 2006-2008 show that of the total population age 25-34 with a bachelor's degree or higher, 32.7% were women and only 25.8% were men.

With the number of women attending college on the rise, the graduates who finish school and step directly into high-paying jobs are just as likely to be female as male.

As Chung told TIME magazine, "These women haven't just caught up with the guys.... In many cities, they're clocking them."

Combine the increasing number of college-educated women with the growing decline of blue collar industries (which the report states "has wiped out good-paying jobs for young men who didn't go to college") and you have a tectonic shift happening in the workplace -- one that is providing female workers new footholds up the career ladder.

Citing three existing conditions that have helped bump up young women's wages, Chung noted that at least one of the three were present in regions where women earned more than men:

  1. Local industries/businesses that are knowledge-based (New York City and Los Angeles)
  2. Declining industries in smaller manufacturing towns (Erie, PA and Terre Haute, IN)
  3. Cities in which minorities make up more than half the population (Miami, FL and Monroe, LA)
Large minority populations are significant because among African Americans and Hispanics, women are 50% more likely to obtain a college education and earn a degree. With all three of the above-named conditions on the rise in the US, Chung believes they provide an economic advantage unique to women: "This generation...has adapted to the fundamental restructuring of the American economy better than their older predecessors or male peers."

Women don't fare so well is in cities where male-dominated industries such as software development or technology-based military contracting are the backbone of the economy.

Women also fall on the wrong side of the gender wage gap when they don't meet the criteria of being under 30, unmarried, childless, and city dwellers. Women who are married or live in small towns continue to earn less than men.

The study adds additional weight to anecdotal information that this age group, commonly known as the millennials, will significantly impact existing gender roles in the workplace and at home. This youngest group of wage earners, born between 1977 and 1995, expect equal treatment and equal pay because they see themselves as equal. They are less likely to regard child-rearing as a gender-specific task and oppose the notion of male/female gender roles. As these 80 million millennials overtake the workforce, by sheer numbers alone they will function as a catalyst for change.

Sources:
Dougherty, Conor. "Young Women's Pay Exceeds Male Peers'." The Wall Street Journal, online.wsj.com. 1 September 2010.
Luscombe, Belinda. "Workplace Salaries: At Last, Women on Top." TIME.com. 1 September 2010.
Wiseman, Paul. "Young, single, childless women out-earn male counterparts." USAToday.com. 1 September 2010.

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