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Have young women really closed the pay gap?

hbousheys Icon Posted by heather boushey

August 5th, 2007

Friday’s New York Times had a most interesting article entitled, “For Young Earners in Big city, a Gap in Women’s Favor.” The article says that, in New York City, among young (those aged 21 to 30), full-time workers, women now make 117 percent of what men earn. The article goes on to note that young women outearn men in other large cities — Chicago, Dallas, Boston, and Minneapolis, among others.

Wow. This is huge news. But, then I looked at the graphic next to the article and realized that there’s something funny going on — at least in NYC. In the chart, we see that, in NYC, among whites, the median man outearns the median woman by $5,100, but among Blacks, women outearn men by $2,100 and among Hispanics, by $2,000. So, women of color are earning more than men of color, but white women still earn 89 cents on the white male dollar.

What is interesting is that in NYC, when you put all the young workers together, you find that women outearn men by 117 percent — far more than within any particular group. This is possible if the shares of men and women by racial/ethnic group are not consistent — that is, there are not the same number of men and women aged 21 to 30 in NYC within each racial/ethnic group. I haven’t seen the full study, but I’d guess that NYC must have fewer of the highly paid (white?) men and more of the poorly paid men (Black and Hispanic?), relative to highly paid women of any race. Is this progress? If it’s because there are more young, low-wage men of color, I’m not so sure that this is a sign of college women’s progress.

The interesting statistics in this chart are not discussed in the New York Times: among young, whites working full-time, the gender pay ratio is 89 in NYC, just like it is nationally. It is among non-white racial/ethnic groups that the wage ratio is closer to — or above — parity. So, is this a story about women with college degrees moving to the big city and makin’ it or is it about a change in the demographics of cities, with more, very low wage men of color? It may be a bit of both, but while the article implies that that this data show that women with college degrees are outperforming their male colleagues, there is nothing in the statistics presented that indicates this is the case.

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