Maybe there’s hope for women’s finances yet—at least in the only seven places in the U.S. where women actually make more money than men.
According to a report from the Pew Charitable Trusts, out of the whole country and among the 2,700 locations in the U.S. with more than 10,000 workers that were reviewed by Stateline for the study, there are indeed just seven—six municipalities and one county—in which the pay gap goes in the other direction.
But in those seven, women out-earn men on average, sometimes by a substantial margin, while elsewhere in the country women make an average of less than 80 cents on the dollar compared with men.
Interestingly, all seven of those places are majority-minority, and many also have low-income neighborhoods in addition to being able to reap “the economic benefits of proximity to vibrant cities.”
Stateline reviewed census data on earnings for all 2,700 locations to come up with some astonishing findings. And some of the explanations are no less astonishing.
Says the report, “The reasons for the pay differences are complex and uncertain: Pay may be relatively higher for young millennial women who have landed jobs in big cities and found affordable housing in commuter suburbs such as these. And the communities’ high numbers of single male laborers, many of whom are immigrants working without documentation, can also hold down male income, which makes female income relatively higher.”
In fact, in many places, those high concentrations of undocumented male immigrants without higher-level qualifications don’t even stay for more than a few years. They come to the U.S. and work in lower-level jobs, and then return home with their pay to give way to a new crop of workers. That paves the way for women to command higher pay.
But that doesn’t mean that women aren’t moving up, and those aren’t the only explanations, with women even out-earning men in some of the lucrative, male-dominated fields, such as computers and engineering, that generally underpay women compared with men.
Another factor the report mentions: Female employees move up the pay ladder “with the help of female business entrepreneurs sensitive to the need for flexibility to attend to family responsibilities.”
Such female-led businesses are more sensitive to the needs of women with children and married women (whom male bosses often assume will leave to have children if they have none already). The gender pay gap, the report says, is particularly wide for both categories of women, while married men often make more than their single counterparts “based on the assumption it [marriage] will make them more ambitious.”
“Marriage adds a premium to a man’s income, and it’s a drag on women’s income,” Ariane Hegewisch, study director for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, is quoted saying in the report.
Education is a factor in some of these areas, because among a large minority population, black women tend to be more highly educated than black men.
And in at least one of these places, a predominance of government jobs bound by civil service rules that discourage discrimination in hiring and promotions contribute to women’s prosperity.
Be sure to check out the seven places in the U.S. where women out-earn men. Bear in mind that nationally, women earn an average of 79.5 percent of men’s average salaries, with median pay of $40,019 compared with men’s median $50,318.