The Gender Wage Gap, by State

We have blogged and written extensively about the gender pay gap, much of which is not attributable to discrimination, as is commonly invoked. President Obama has taken up the cause; he recently signed two executive orders aimed at closing the gap.  Business Insider recently posted a state-by-state breakdown of the gender wage gap. It is interesting to look at but keep in mind the non-discriminatory factors that contribute to the gap, and therefore consider these numbers with some skepticism:

Wyoming has the biggest pay gap — the median male full-time worker made $51,932, and the median female full-time worker made $33,152. The male worker thus made 56.6% more than the female worker.

Washington, D.C. had the smallest gap — there, men make 11.0% more than women. Among the states, Maryland and Nevada had the smallest gaps, both at 17.2%.

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  1. Julien Couvreur says:

    Since much of the wage differences are not due to discrimination, but skills, experience, job description, etc, maybe it is better to discuss the gender skill gap, the gender profession gap, the gender staying-at-home gap, etc.

    Talking about a “gender pay gap” makes it seem like you might be able to police wages (attractive talking point for politicians). But in fact the most important factors are more subtle and probably related to culture.

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    • Phil Persinger says:


      Let’s stipulate your objections to the 77% figure, but your comment indicates that the factors you mention do not account for all of the wage gap. My understanding has been that when all variables are controlled, the gap still runs in the 7-10% range. This column discusses the situation

      Given the asymmetrical power relationship between employer and employee and the diminished presence of union bargaining in the workplace (at least in the US), how would you suggest this remaining gap be closed if not by anti-discrimination law? As Casserly says, 7% is not negligible

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      • Average.Random.Joe says:

        When looking at wage and compensation the gap is even smaller. I read a study that women prefer benefits over wage. So if I offer 9k pay and 1k in benefits, that will attract a woman more than a 10K pay which would attract men more. Wages and pay are very single dimensional. What are the compensation gap numbers? The hard thing there is that there are things like work flexibility that have a cost but that is hard to quantify. If I let you take off for family things, that is lost productivity that I am paying you still for.

        Even then, it has also been shown that women also don’t negotiate pay (or benefits) as often as men. The pay gap alone shrinks dramatically when you stratify for those that did and did not negotiate their pay.

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      • Enter your name... says:

        I can give a concrete example of this:

        About 15 years ago, the nursing homes in our town paid approximately the same total compensation. But three offered health insurance worth about $175 or so a month, and one offered $1 extra per hour worked—which, for a full-time worker, is about $175 a month.

        Guess which one had an easier time getting men to accept their offer of employment? Guess which one had more employees whose spouses had jobs providing health insurance? Guess which one had younger/healthier employees?

        But if you did a straight wage comparison, you’d see three things:

        * The average CNA’s total compensation was the same all over town.

        * Every entry-level nurse’s aide in each separate skilled care facility was paid the exactly same amount as every other CNA in that facility, to the penny.

        * The average entry-level male nurse’s aide in town was paid more cash per hour than the average entry-level female nurse’s aide (but received fewer benefits).

        Were they discriminating on the basis of sex? I don’t think so.

        Is there anything that the “lower paying” facilities could do about this “wage gap”? I don’t think so. The real difference was in what kind of compensation package the workers preferred, not in whether the employer treated its own employees differently.

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      • Phil Persinger says:


        Thanks for your reply.

        Here’s a St. Louis Fed article from 10/2011

        It in turn refers to a 1995 study

        Solberg, Eric; and Laughlin, Teresa. “The Gender Pay Gap, Fringe Benefits, and Occupational Crowding.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 1995, Vol. 48, No. 4, pp. 692-708.

        which I, as a civilian, can’t access. Here’s the former piece’s take-away from the latter:

        “Economists Eric Solberg and Teresa Laughlin applied an index of total compensation, which accounts for both wages and benefits, to analyze how these benefits would affect the gender gap.7 They found a gender gap in wages of approximately 13 percent. But when they considered total compensation, the gender gap dropped to 3.6 percent.”

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      • James says:

        “Here’s a St. Louis Fed article from 10/2011

        It in turn refers to a 1995 study”

        And I would wager that the real gender gap has continued to narrow in the nearly two decades since the study.

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      • Phil Persinger says:


        All the stuff I’ve read indicates that the gap (however it’s defined) has indeed narrowed, but it’s not clear to me that the cause is a combination of good things.

        On the simple wage front: it may be that women are simply working longer hours (and thus earning more), but since men’s wages have been basically flat for the past 40 years– bringing up again the problem of definition– the closing of the gap may not be a good indicator of the economy as a whole.

        Regarding A.V.J.’s posts about total compensation: the shifting of insurance costs since 1991 (the date of the data for the Solberg/Laughlin study) and the general retrenchment of benefit arrangements may not have increased women’s options outside of wages.

        Perhaps a more knowledgeable poster could cite studies a little more current than the early ’90s.

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    • Average.Random.Joe says:

      Ya, I would love to see a compensation gap. Include flex time, perks at work, that sort of thing. That would still have problems because the considerations people take on where to work are varied and wages are only a small portion. I was just looking for a job a year ago and everyone was asking my pay target. I told them a range but that was flexible depending on what I saw. I would be willing to be paid less if certain things were present, like lower stress but still challenging environment. Try quantifying that. Do women gravitate to high stress or low stress? Questionnaires will have a hard time but will work because I feel stress but really it is self imposed, I want to do the best job I can. So that really is a bare minimum I can feel I think. What is interesting is that as you take on these factors, the gap closes.

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      • Enter your name... says:

        Phil, one of the problems with the 77% number is that “full-time” women work fewer hours than “full-time” men. Full-time is defined as 35 hours or more. Women are far more likely to be working (just barely) 35 hours than men.

        As a result, they’re often comparing the paycheck of a woman who worked 35 hours a week against the paycheck for a man who worked 40 hours a week. Or, since the 77% number is actually an annual-income comparison rather than a weekly one, the paycheck for a woman who (as a school teacher) worked 10 months of the year against the paycheck of a man who (as a corporate trainer) worked 12 months of the year.

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  2. RickJWagner says:

    According to the posted article, the male in Wyoming out earns the male in New York?
    I smell some data manipulation.

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    • Logic says:

      New York is full of poor.

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      • Average.Random.Joe says:

        New York is also full of rich people. Wealth isn’t income. I can earn a lot but if I spend alot more on the same things, I am not going to have as much. I think few people would believe that cost of living in NY is lower or the same as the cost of living in WY. I don’t think data manipulation though. Just bad data like you generally get with rough aggregates.

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    • Enter your name... says:

      * The difference for the men is only about 1% or so.

      * There’s a lot more to New York than just NYC.

      * The unemployment rate is 50% higher in New York. The increased competition is going to drive down wages somewhat in New York.

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  3. Rachel says:

    Women must believe they are worth more and negotiate for higher wages to reduce the wage gap. No business is going to hand out a higher wage if they can get away with paying a person less than another with the same job. imagine there isn’t a woman in DC that didn’t fight like heck every step of the way to get herself where she is (excluding those born and raised in DC).

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    • Enter your name... says:

      The gender gap is mostly about industries, not about negotiations with individual employers. If women want to have higher pay, they need to leave companies that pay worse and go work for companies that pay better.

      Large employers often have someone in HR whose job is to make sure that their female employees are getting paid as much as their male employees. The problem is that Big Company, which happens to hire 70% men into this job, pays *everyone* a lot better than Other Company, which happens to hire 70% women. The result is that “women” are paid less in this industry, even though both companies are paying each of their employees exactly the same amount of money.

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    • Voice of Reason says:

      I think that it mostly comes down to association, and not causation. There’s no “stigma” against being woman, but it’s just that many of the qualities that come with being a woman lead to them making less than men, on average.

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      • Enter your name... says:

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  4. Rick Loomis says:

    This term needs to be changed. Many will think “gender wage gap” describes men and women working the same job, and women getting payed less. Now if you want to discuss gender hiring discrimination, or certain jobs discriminating against women, yes.

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    • NZ says:

      Yeah, like the NFL! For too long now the NFL has discriminated against females!

      We should be lobbying to see women represented in proportion to their share of the general population–or more!–out there on the field, among the coaching and training staff, and in the locker room.

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  5. Felicia says:

    It seems that people have made a decision on this issue and then ignore the complexity. The issue is presented as discrimination that women have trouble overcoming. My husband is a teacher and he is paid equivalently to women with the same education and experience. When you break it out in this manner I believe that the data would show more equity. This would especially be true when comparing responsibilities of men and women in the workplace. As a corporate accountant I work with men and women. Some women make more and some men make more, but when comparing jobs at the same level we are pretty similar. The major discrimination that I have noticed deals with men (especially single men). There seems to be a gender bias about work hours. Many women in the office will come in late, leave early and take days off without question. Using their children as excuses that are viewed negatively for men. Women seem to use the excuse, “I’ve got to go pick up my kids from daycare” on a daily basis and leave as soon as they have stayed the minimum number of work hours. Men, on the other hand are viewed in a negative light if they leave to pick up kids, come in late or leave early due to childcare. Maternity leave is another huge factor that should be considered. I work with a man (who makes less than many of the women) who only took off one day when his kids were born. However, we women took months off of work. He may have had the same days and benefits available to him, but there is a huge stigma against men caring about family. Men will work more hours on average in a salaried job, which could eventually lead to promotion (and more pay) because they have proved to be available and work longer hours consistently.

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  6. Helen DeWitt says:

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    • NotBlaine says:

      “it’s that, compared with a man on the SAME income, she may have to pay twice or three times as much for similar goods.”

      I don’t want to be rude, but what in the hell are you talking about? What scenario is there that men pay less for similar goods than a woman?

      Because I just went to the grocery store and the hardware store and no one asked me for my “Y Chromosome Discount Card”.

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  7. daniel says:

    the gender pay gap is such bull it goes both ways

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