According to research released Monday, in nearly two dozen U.S. metropolitan areas, younger women have closed the pay gap or are outpacing their male counterparts, as higher education and more transparency about what people earn help to overcome entrenched disparities.
According to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data, in D.C., New York, Los Angeles, and 19 other major metro areas where strong job markets attract educated young people looking to build careers, women younger than 30 earn at least as much as or more than men. Women aged 30 and under earn 93 cents for every dollar earned by a comparable man across the country. However, when all women who work full-time and year-round are included, the figure drops to 82 cents, according to the study, which looked at data from 2015 to 2019. This represents a small but steady improvement from a decade ago, when women earned 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.
According to Richard Fry, a senior researcher at Pew, the findings show that while the gender pay gap is narrowing for young women, common life events such as child-rearing that occur as they age present persistent obstacles to wage growth.
According to economists who study gender compensation, men and women start out on roughly equal footing, but wage disparities widen over time. Small pay disparities become magnified as promotions and raises accumulate over years and decades.
“The older a woman gets, the more chances she has to be passed over for a promotion, to get a smaller raise than an equivalent male colleague, or to make a career sacrifice for her family,” said Betsey Stevenson, a University of Michigan professor of public policy and economics.
According to Alexandra Kalev, an anthropology professor at Tel Aviv University, women are less likely to be mentored at work and receive management training. Even if they have in-demand technical skills, they are more likely to be routed to lower-paying jobs. Even at companies with generous leave policies, maternity leave can put them on a “mommy track” with fewer opportunities for advancement.
Experts say Pew’s recent findings are consistent with other studies looking at women’s earnings at various ages. According to Claudia Goldin of Harvard University, the pay gap between men and women has narrowed significantly in terms of work hours and earnings, especially for young women, according to a 2014 study.
According to experts, young women’s salary increases appear to be the result of a combination of education and awareness. Employers have been forced to justify their compensation decisions as a result of pay equity laws, making it easier for women to bargain for more. Gains in higher education, particularly in urban areas, appear to be making a difference. Women have long outperformed men in college admissions and graduation, and the gap is more pronounced in large cities than in small towns.
Before becoming a mother, employers are increasingly valuing women’s education, expertise, and experience over their male counterparts, according to Fry. When young women outperform men in college, their wages rise in tandem, and they stay in the workforce during periods of economic uncertainty.
Fry looked at how men and women with and without college degrees participated in the workforce. Women without degrees left the workforce at significantly higher rates than their male counterparts when the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States in early 2020. However, regardless of gender, workforce participation rates among college graduates remained largely unchanged.
According to him, the persistent 6.9% pay gap between men and women under 30 can be attributed to the different types of jobs men and women typically hold. Men are more concentrated in industries such as heavy industry and technology, which pay well. Women are overrepresented in industries such as health care, education, and hospitality, which often pay less.