On average, American men earn more than women. At all ages, women’s median annual earnings were 82% of men’s for full-time, full-year workers, according to the most recent data from the Census Bureau.
This gender pay gap is smaller when women are younger. Those under 30 earn an average of 93 cents for every dollar earned by a man in a comparable position. A new study from the Pew Research Center that analyzed Census Bureau data from 2015 to 2019 takes an in-depth look at where exactly these pay gaps are occurring.
In 22 major metropolitan areas, including New York, Washington and Los Angeles, women under 30 earned the same or significantly more than their male counterparts.
“Women are at their greatest parity with men in their early years of entering the workforce, through their teens and twenties,” said Richard Fry, senior economist behind the Pew study. Research, at HuffPost. “As you track them over time, the pay gap widens.”
American cities where women under 30 start their careers on the same footing as men.
Of the 250 major US metro areas examined in the study, there were 22 in which women under 30 working full time were at or above pay parity with men:
- Town of Barnstable, Massachusetts (112%)
- Champaign-Urbana, Illinois (102%)
- Flagstaff, Arizona (100%)
- Gainesville, Florida (110%)
- Iowa City, Iowa (101%)
- Lebanon, Pennsylvania (102%)
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim Metro Area (100%)
- Morgantown, West Virginia (114%)
- Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Florida Metro Area (108%)
- New York City-Newark-Jersey City area (102%)
- Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA (100%)
- Richmond, Virginia (100%)
- Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, CA (101%)
- San Angelo, TX (102%)
- San Diego-Carlsbad, CA (105%)
- San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA (100%)
- Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA (101%)
- Honolulu, Hawaii (100%)
- Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC Metro Area (102%)
- Wenatchee, Washington (120%)
- Winston-Salem, North Carolina (101%)
- Yuba City, CA (105%)
These urban areas comprise about 16% of all young women working full-time, full-year in America, according to Pew analysis.
Midwestern metropolitan areas had the largest gender gaps among young workers, with women earning about 90% of the wages of their male counterparts. In the southern and western metropolitan areas, they earned about 95% and in the northeast, they earned 94%.
“Wage parity tends to be more elusive if you live in the Midwest,” Fry said.
College towns that attract young people, such as Morgantown, West Virginia, San Diego, Calif., and Gainesville, Fla., were on the list of young women above parity, along with major urban areas like New York.
“We know that college towns tend to retain people who go to college there,” said Linda Babcock, an economist at Carnegie Mellon University who studies gender gaps in negotiations and promotions. “Education will create more opportunities for women in more white-collar and professional jobs, and those will pay better than those men will have less likely to be college-educated.”
The college education levels of young workers could explain why women earn more in these regions. Fry pointed out that national research has found that more young women today are likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than men. This follows with a statistical model he found.
“The amount of wage parity is positively associated with the education level of young women compared to young men living in that metropolitan area,” Fry said.
“Young women have really upped their game in the skills they bring to the job market,” he added. “They significantly outperform men in college completion, which helps narrow the pay gap.”
Unfortunately, the gap widens after 30.
The pay advantages that women get early in their careers are unlikely to continue. The Pew Research study cites census data showing that in 2000, a woman aged 16 to 29 working full time all year earned 88% of that of a young man in a similar role, on average. But in 2019, when those workers were between the ages of 35 and 48, women earned just 80% of that of their male peers.
Fry said the “maternity penalty” may be one of the reasons women lose pay parity over time. While men are seen as more mature and engaged in their work when they have children, women are seen as mothers first, workers second. Women tend to lose 4% of their hourly earnings on average for every child they have, while men earn 6% more, research group Third Way has found, using decades of data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth.
“Many women under 30, especially in big cities, don’t have children yet and so haven’t been hit with the ‘motherhood penalty’ in their careers,” said Sarah Small. , researcher at the Rutgers Center for Women and Work. “Once women have children, they often leave the workforce to care for children, which means they have gaps in their resumes during which their male counterparts get promotions and raises.”
Women with children face lose-lose options: they are penalized for interrupting their careers and penalized for remaining in the labor market as mothers. Studies have shown that hiring managers may view mothers as less competent and less engaged in their jobs.
Even when women do not become mothers, they are also more likely to face the disadvantage of being burdened with work that will not allow them to be promoted over time, compared to men, Babcock said. When there is no equal pay for equal work, which contributes to the pay gap, she said.
“Helping others do their jobs, training new employees, hiring summer interns, planning the office party, taking notes at meetings…these are the kinds of tasks that need to be done, but they don’t don’t actually show up in your performance review, and our research shows that women do a lot more than men do,” said Babcock, co-author of the upcoming book The No Club: Putting a Stop to Women’s Dead-End Work. “This could be a very big factor in why women’s advancement lags behind men’s because women are tasked with doing this work.”
Overall, the study shows that young women have an edge over young men in some U.S. cities, but they can lose that edge during the early earning years of a career.
“The study is certainly encouraging, but it only represents a select group of American women,” Small said. “We still have a long way to go to close the gender pay gap nationally and across age groups.”