See Where Your State Falls in the Fight for Equal Pay
Wage discrepancy between men and women is still significant across the country, but one section is making strides to close that gap: the Northeast.
According to jobs data site PayScale's 2016 Gender Pay Gap Report, Vermont, Maine, and Rhode Island boast the smallest wage gap between men and women of any state in the United States.
The report looks at median earnings for men and women across industries. It found that men still out-earn women in every state in the union, but Vermont is the closest to equality, with women earning 84.8% of what men earn overall when factors like years of experience, education, and job title are not accounted for. The nation-wide average is 76%, per the report.
The two states that round out the top five are Montana and Nevada (80.4%). The gap is also narrower than the national average in New Hampshire, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.
Meanwhile, Wyoming has the distinction of having the largest gap, with women making 71.6% of what men make. Other states in the bottom five include Alabama (72.5%), Louisiana (72.9%), Texas (73%), and Michigan (73.1%). Florida is the only state in the South with a gender wage gap narrower than the national average.
Lydia Frank, vice president of content strategy at PayScale, says the difference in region can largely be attributed to the industries that proliferate in each: Oil and gas, for example, have the biggest wage gap of any industry, and dominate in places like Wyoming and Texas. Meanwhile, education and health care jobs are common on the East Coast, and boast smaller gaps than other industries.
"Whenever you have concentrations of industries that are male dominated, that’s going to increase the gap," says Frank.
Click on the map below to see the gender pay gap and median salaries by state. Select multiple states if you want to compare them.
But simply looking at the uncontrolled gap doesn't tell the whole story. When the research controls for factors like years of experience, education, and skills, it turns out women actually out-earn men in Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and the District of Columbia when they hold the same job.
In fact, when PayScale controlled for all of these various factors, the wage gap closes to 98%. But the difference between the controlled and uncontrolled gaps is important, according to Frank, because it indicates the real work to be done is to get more women into higher-paying fields in general.
"There’s so much focus on this equal pay for equal work issue," says Frank. "It’s not the most pressing issue. Typically that’s happening. The issue is that women aren’t making it into the best-paying roles in the first place. It’s the fact that the man might be the CEO while the woman can't break past the director level."
In a way, it's an optimistic take: The U.S. has made significant progress in the "equal pay for equal work" fight. But true wage equity will only exist when women are also represented in the highest-paying careers and at the highest levels of companies.