Equal Pay Day: AAUW Releases State By State Gender Wage Gap Rankings

The Worst State For Being Paid Equally

Even as we discuss how women are becoming “The Richer Sex,” American women still earn a lot less than their male counterparts -- 23 percent less on average. And pay equity may have a lot to do with one factor: location, location, location.

New data analysis from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) shows that the gulf between men and women’s wages differs greatly depending on the state where you live. The research, based on U.S. Census data, was released in time for Equal Pay Day, April 17th, which symbolically marks the number of extra days women would have to work into 2012 in order to earn, on average, as much as their male counterparts did in 2011.

The AAUW numbers show that Washington, D.C. has the narrowest wage gap nationally -- women earn 91 percent of what men do on average ($56,127 vs. $61,381). Wyoming came in last, with women earning just 64 percent of what their male counterparts do. On average women there earn $32,426, while men earn $50,854.

Some of the location-based differences can be explained by demographics. Fatima Goss Graves, vice president of education and employment at the National Women’s Law Center told MSNBC that the high percentage of federal jobs -- where the pay gaps are smaller generally than in the private sector -- may contribute to DC’s wage equity. On the other end of the spectrum, she said that Wyoming’s rural population and male-dominated industries such as coal mining, could account for part of the discrepancy.

Experts have long debated the root causes of the national wage gap, which has narrowed considerably since 1970 but stagnated in recent years. Some argue that the gap is about women’s life choices, including the choice to go into fields that generally receive less pay or work part-time in order to spend time at home to raise children. Certain industries have a larger wage gap than others -- on Wall Street women only earn 55 to 62 cents for every dollar that their male co-workers do. However, a 2007 AAUW report showed that even after controlling for college major, occupation, industry, sector, hours, work experience, education, GPA, age, race/ethnicity, religion, marital status and number of children a 5 percent gap between male and female earnings existed one year out of college. Ten years out of college, a 12 percent “unexplained difference” was found.

Here are the 10 states with the smallest wage gaps and the 10 states with the largest wage gaps (including Washington, D.C.). Where does your state fall?

LOOK: The 10 Best And 10 Worst States For Equal Pay

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