How gender and geography affect your paycheck

Inequalities are in the spotlight as the world marks International Women's Day. In the US, they show up most persistently in the gap between what men and women earn.

By 247 Wall St. Mar 8, 2013 12:06PM

Woman look at laptop at work © Whisson, Jordan, CorbisBy Samuel Weigley and Michael B. Sauter, 24/7 Wall St.  24/7 Wall St. on MSN Money


Today is International Women’s Day, meant to raise awareness of violence against women and the inequalities that affect women around the world.

One area the United States continues to struggle with is gender equality in pay. In 2011, men earned a median $47,233. Women earned $10,000 less or just 78.8% of what men took home. 

This difference has remained basically unchanged in the United States over the past five years.


In some places in this country, women have begun to approach truly equal footing. In Los Angeles, women earned more than 91% of the male median. But in other parts of the country, the gender pay gap is far more severe. In Provo-Orem, Utah, median pay for women employed full-time, year-round, was just 61.6% of what local men earned, or nearly $20,000 less.

Some industries have a much smaller gender pay gap than others. In food preparation, health care, and computers and mathematics, the median earnings of women in 2011 were at least 85% that of men's. The areas with a higher concentration of these jobs tended to have a smaller pay gap.


Other industries have extremely wide gaps in earnings. In the legal profession, women earned barely half what men did. And because it is such a high-paying field, the difference in income was roughly $54,000. In sales, construction, mineral extraction and manufacturing jobs, there are similar gaps both in median wages and access to high-level jobs.

The culture gap

The cities that tend to have the biggest gender wage gap have higher concentrations of industries where earnings are unequal. Wichita, Kan., and Ogden, Utah, have high proportions of manufacturing jobs. Cities such as Baton Rouge, La., and Lancaster, Pa., have large construction and extraction industries.


Culture may also play a part in the cities with a higher gender wage gap. The two metropolitan regions with the biggest gap are both in Utah. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Ariane Hegewisch, a research director for the Institute For Women’s Policy Research, explained that while Utah may also have a high proportion of industries that tend to favor men in pay, "they are a more traditional culture," meaning women are more likely to avoid high-paying jobs or receive offers.


To identify the cities that pay women the least, 24/7 Wall St. compared the median earnings for the past 12 months of both men and women who worked full-time, year-round in the country’s 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas, based on data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. We also reviewed employment composition by sector, also from the Census Bureau. All data were for 2011, the most recent period available.


Click here to see the worst-paying cities for women at 24/7 Wall St.