The Best (and Worst) Paying Cities for Women

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has recently made history as the first female nominated for president of the United States. Her nomination brought some long-standing issues of gender equality to the political foreground. While progress has been made over the years, there is still a real and significant gender pay gap in the American workplace. The typical female worker earns less than 80% of the earnings of the typical male worker.

That gap is much worse in those industries that have historically excluded women. It is also much worse in certain parts of the country that, for a number of reasons, are still far further behind on the path to gender pay equality. Some places, such as Cape Coral, Florida have a smaller pay gap, and women there earn 93.6 cents for every dollar area men earn. In Provo-Orem, Utah women earn a median income of $33,504 a year, or just 64.3% of the male median wage. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 major metropolitan areas with the largest pay gap and the 10 metros with the smallest gap.

A review of the data shows that even in areas where the pay gap is relatively smaller, this is not necessarily because they are better represented in higher-paying fields where they earn similar wages to men. Rather, in many of the metropolitan areas with the smallest pay gaps, men are either paid less ― but still more than women ― in traditionally high-paying jobs, or women are less represented in traditionally low-paying industries, notably the food services sector.

In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Julie Anderson, research associate at the Institute For Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), explained that this appears to be the case on a national level as well. “In a lot of places, men’s earnings dropped over time, and women’s earnings did not drop as much. So that closes the wage gap, but not really in the positive way we want.”

Another explanation for the lower gender pay gaps in certain metropolitan areas appears to be that both genders are paid less. It seems that often, when incomes are higher in an area, men tend to benefit significantly more. In places such as Cape Coral and Deltona, Florida and Fresno, California, both genders earn less than the median wage, and the total gender pay gap is less than $5,000.

On the other hand, in San Jose, California, where both women and men earn more than the typical pay for their genders nationwide, men earn nearly $20,000 more than women on average.

One common indicator of potential earnings is education, with higher education levels often leading to higher incomes. However, education does not appear to have made a difference in the gender pay gap. Women are more likely to have graduated from both high school and college, yet they have significantly less representation in the higher-paying industries for which a college education typically paves the way.

In many of the metro areas with the largest gender pay gaps, women occupy less than one in three management positions, less than one in five computer and mathematics jobs, and less than one in 10 architecture and engineering jobs.

Some argue that despite their education, women are simply not choosing to enter these fields. Anderson explained that there are a number of reasons women end up in certain lower-paying occupations.

For example, she noted that women are far more likely to assume responsibility for child-rearing in their family and that limits their choices. “People make pretty rational choices. If you’re in a family and a care-giving need arises, it’s sort of a self-perpetuating cycle that the lower earner is the one who steps out of the workplace, and as we know that is more likely to be a woman than a man. And then it is very hard to recover from that time out of the labor force.”

She added that women who continue to work are more likely to choose careers as educators because such work lines up with the children’s school schedules, or in health care occupations because those careers are more likely to yield shift work.

Even in those occupations where women tend to dominate employment, they are paid traditionally less than their male counterparts or less than similarly skilled positions in other industries.

Anderson added that whether the positions are traditionally female or male dominated, and even when controlling for a number of factors, the pay gap still exists. “There are plenty of studies that compare people within the same occupation, and you control for all kinds of factors ― years of education, number of hours work, years at the company ― there is always still some amount that is unexplained.”

To identify the worst and best paying metropolitan statistical areas for women, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed women’s median earnings as a percent of men’s median earnings in the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas. Median earnings by metro area and by sex came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS). A high percentage reflects a small gender pay gap, while a low percentage reflects a large pay discrepancy. We also considered median earnings for specific sectors, sub-sectors, and occupations, as well as median household income. We also reviewed data on the percentage of women and men in specific sectors. Educational attainment rates by gender also came from the American Community Survey.

These are the best (and worst) paying cities for women.

The Best Cities for Women

5. Fresno, CA
> Women’s pay as a pct. of men’s: 87.8%
> Median earnings for men: $40,626
> Median earnings for women: $35,674

Most high-paying industries either employ significantly more men than women or tend to pay men more. While this is the case in Fresno, California as well, gaps tend to be smaller in some key high-paying industries. Women make up 22% of Fresno’s architecture and engineering positions, which, while nowhere near equal representation, is the second highest female representation in the field of any major metro area. The typical female engineer or architect in the area is actually paid more than the typical male, with a median wage of $86,899 a year versus $73,921.

4. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA
> Women’s pay as a pct. of men’s: 89.9%
> Median earnings for men: $45,733
> Median earnings for women: $41,127

Women earn about 90 cents for every dollar men earn in Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, about 10 cents less on the dollar than the national pay gap. The typical woman working as a life, physical, or social scientist in Los Angeles earns as much as her male counterpart and more than women scientists nationwide. Women also earn as much as men in several low-paying positions in the metro area, such as community and social service occupations and office and administrative support jobs.

In recent years, celebrities have directed media attention to the gender pay gap among Hollywood actors. Women in the arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations in Los Angeles earn 78% of what men in similar positions do, less than the 86% national gap.

3. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL
> Women’s pay as a pct. of men’s: 90.2%
> Median earnings for men: $35,989
> Median earnings for women: $32,458

Women working in Deltona, Florida earn more than 90 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. However, depending on the type of occupation, there is still a sizeable gap between genders. In computer and mathematical occupations, women account for less than one-third of the workforce, and while the typical Deltona male employed in these industries earns more than $70,000 a year, women earn a median of just $38,750. As is the case in a number of metro areas, it is likely the pay gap in Deltona is less severe because women are less likely to be employed in some low-paying industries. While 54.3% of all food preparation and serving jobs are held by women nationwide, only 44.3% of deltona’s food service jobs are held by females, lower than in nearly every major metropolitan area.

2. Durham-Chapel Hill, NC
> Women’s pay as a pct. of men’s: 91.7%
> Median earnings for men: $45,732
> Median earnings for women: $41,938

The typical woman in Durham-Chapel Hill earns $41,938 a year, roughly 92% of the $45,732 the typical man earns, one of the smallest gender pay gaps nationwide. Durham-Chapel Hill is home to the Research Triangle Park, the largest corporate research complex in the country. The more than 200 companies in the park may help increase access for women to high-paying technology jobs. Women comprise 19.7% of all architects and engineers in the metro area and earn roughly $7,000 more than their male counterparts, each some of the highest figures nationwide.

1. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL
> Women’s pay as a pct. of men’s: 93.6%
> Median earnings for men: $37,402
> Median earnings for women: $35,023

While the gender pay gap exists in every major metropolitan area, is it the least severe in Cape Coral, Florida. Women earn 93.6 cents for every dollar men earn, and in some area industries, women are paid as well or better than their male counterparts. The typical woman employed in the business and financial services sector in Cape Coral earns $51,296 a year, more than the $51,303 a typical man earns. While on a national level female health technologists and technicians earn just 82% of the median male earnings, the typical Cape Coral woman in the profession earns $5,100 more than the typical male earnings in the position.

The Worst Cities for Women

5. Salt Lake City, UT
> Women’s pay as a pct. of men’s: 70.5%
> Median earnings for men: $50,217
> Median earnings for women: $35,414

Salt Lake City is one one of three Utah metro areas among the 10 worst cities for women. According to a 2015 study by advocacy group Voices for Utah Children, the state’s pay gap is due to a mix of discrimination and differences in qualification between the two sexes. While 34.0% of adult men in Salt Lake City have at least a bachelor’s degree, just 28.7% of women have similar educational attainment. The only major metro areas with larger gaps in educational attainment are Ogden-Clearfield and Provo-Orem ― both also in Utah. The typical woman in Salt Lake City earns $35,414 annually, far less than the $50,217 median annual earnings for males in the metro area. The 70.5% pay gap is one of the widest in the country.

4. Boise City, ID
> Women’s pay as a pct. of men’s: 69.7%
> Median earnings for men: $46,046
> Median earnings for women: $32,110

Women tend to be paid less in industries where they are less represented. However, they are also underpaid in industries where they make up the vast majority of jobs. In Boise, which has one of the largest gender pay gaps in the country, women account for at least 65% of education and health diagnosing and practitioner roles but are paid just 65% of their male counterparts. The median earnings for female technologists is just $35,933 a year compared to $61,083 for males.

3. Ogden-Clearfield, UT
> Women’s pay as a pct. of men’s: 67.5%
> Median earnings for men: $53,158
> Median earnings for women: $35,879

With median earnings of $46,940 a year, Ogden-Clearfield residents earn more than Americans nationwide. The distribution of these high incomes, however, is close to the worst in the country.

Very few women nationwide work in construction and extraction occupations, occupying just 2.8% of such jobs. Women in Ogden, however, make up 4.6% of such workers. Despite the higher representation, female industry workers in the metro area earn just $18,649 annually, considerably lower than the median earnings for women working in these jobs nationwide and less than 40% of what men in similar jobs earn in the area. By contrast, the pay gap for the industry nationally is more than 80%.

2. Baton Rouge, LA
> Women’s pay as a pct. of men’s: 64.9%
> Median earnings for men: $53,155
> Median earnings for women: $34,522

Baton Rouge trails only Provo-Orem as the worst paying city for women. The two cities share the distinction as the only metros in the nation where women are paid less than two dollars for every three dollars a man is paid. Like the nation as a whole, pay is the least equitable in Baton Rouge’s legal occupations. Women, who account for 43.5% of people employed in the industry, earn $52,459 annually, far less than the median earnings for men working in the sector. Female wages are lower than male earnings in nearly every area industry despite the fact that area adult women tend to be better educated than the men.

1. Provo-Orem, UT
> Women’s pay as a pct. of men’s: 64.3%
> Median earnings for men: $52,068
> Median earnings for women: $33,504

No city has a wider gender pay gap than Provo-Orem, where median earnings for women are equal to just 64.3% of male earnings. As is generally the case, the pay gap is even wider in some industries. Women working in health care support occupations in the area earn less than half of what men working in the industry typically earn ― the widest gap of all area industries. While the gender pay gap tends to persist even when adjusting for educational attainment, the large income gap in the Provo area is likely due in part to disparate college attainment rate between men and women. Unlike most metro areas, men are more likely than women to have pursued higher education, with 41.0% of men and 33.2% of women having attained at least a bachelor’s degree.

CONVERSATIONS