The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation 2016; and by Race and Ethnicity

Ariane Hegewisch, M.Phil., Emma Williams-Baron

April 4, 2017
  • ID: IWPR #C456

Women’s median earnings are lower than men’s in nearly all occupations, whether they work in occupations predominantly done by women, occupations predominantly done by men, or occupations with a more even mix of men and women. Data for both women’s and men’s median weekly earnings for full-time work are available for 120 occupations.[1] The occupation with the largest gender wage gap is ‘personal financial advisor;’ in 2016, the median weekly earnings of women ‘personal financial advisors’ were only 55.6 percent of those of men’s, corresponding to a gender wage gap of 44.4 percent.[2]

 

Altogether there are only four occupations—‘counselors;’ ‘teacher assistants;’ ‘combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food;’ and ‘sewing machine operators’—in which women’s median earnings are slightly higher than men’s,[3] while there are 107 occupations in which women’s median earnings were 95 percent or lower than men’s (that is, a wage gap of at least 5 cents per dollar earned by men). During 2016, the median gender earnings ratio for all full-time weekly workers was 81.9 percent, reflecting median weekly earnings for all female full-time workers of $749, compared with $915 per week for men (Table 1).[4]  In general it is the highest paid occupations that have the biggest gender gaps and the lowest paid occupations that have the smallest gaps. All ten of the occupations with the largest gender wage gaps have earnings that are higher than median earnings for all workers ($832); six of the ten occupations with the lowest wage gaps or with a gap in favor of women have earnings below the median for all workers.

 

The Gender Wage Gap Between Occupations

 

Added to the gender wage gap within occupations is the gender wage gap between occupations. Male-dominated occupations tend to pay more than female-dominated occupations at similar skill levels.[5] For example, women ‘elementary and middle school teachers’—the most common occupation for women and a female-dominated field—earn $981 (compared with $1,126 for men; Table 1).[6] Men in ‘software developers, applications and systems software’—among the most common occupations for men and a male-dominated field—earn $1,863 per week on average (compared with $1,553 for women; Table 2). Both occupations require at least a bachelor’s degree. Tackling occupational segregation—men primarily working in occupations done by men, and women primarily working with other women—is an important part of eliminating the gender wage gap.

 

The gender wage gap and occupational segregation are persistent features of the U.S. labor market.[7] Only four of the 20 most common occupations for men and the 20 most common occupations for women overlap (Tables 1 and 2). Of all women working full-time, about four of ten (39.2 percent) work in female-dominated occupations and almost five in ten men (47.1 percent) work in male-dominated occupations.[8] Only 6.3 percent of women work in male-dominated occupations; only 5.0 percent of men work in female-dominated occupations.[9]

 

Women Earn Less than Men in All the Most Common Occupations for Women

 

Table 1 shows the median weekly earnings and the gender earnings ratio in the 20 most common occupations for full-time working women. The occupations together employ 41.3 percent of women and 15.3 percent of men working full-time. The three largest occupations—‘elementary and middle school teachers,’ ‘registered nurses’, and ‘secretaries and administrative assistants’—together employ 13.3 percent of all women. Ten of these 20 large occupations are female-dominated.

 

Within the 20 most common occupations for women, median full-time weekly earnings for women range from $1,188 per week for ‘Managers, all other’ to $403 per week for ‘cashiers’ (Table 1). Women earn less than men in each of the largest occupations for women. The gender wage gap among the 20 most common occupations is largest for ‘financial managers,’ with a gender earnings ratio for full-time work of 69.3 percent (corresponding to a gap of 30.7 percent which amounts to $513 dollars less per week for women than men) and the second largest gap is for ‘retail salespersons,’ with a ratio of 70.4 percent (corresponding to a gap of 29.6 percent or $216 less per week for women than men).

 

Women Earn Less than Men in All the Most Common Occupations for Men

 

Table 2 shows the median weekly earnings and the gender earnings ratios in the 20 most common occupations for full-time working men. These occupations employ 33.0 percent of male full-time workers and 15.4 percent of female full-time workers. Eight of the occupations are nontraditional for women, and in five of the 20—‘construction laborers,’ ‘grounds maintenance workers,’ ‘carpenters,’ ‘automotive service technicians and mechanics,’ and ‘electricians,’—there are too few women workers to estimate their median weekly earnings.

 

Without exception, women’s median earnings are lower than men’s in the 20 largest occupations for men for which data are available. Median full-time weekly earnings for men range from $2,419 for ‘chief executives’ to $459 for ‘cooks’ (Table 2). ‘Retail salespersons’ have the largest gender wage gap of the 20 most common occupations for men, with a gender earnings ratio for full-time work of 70.4 percent (corresponding to a gender pay gap of 29.6 percent amounting to $216 dollars less per week for women).

 

Three of the 20 most common occupations for men have male weekly earnings above $1,500, including one, ‘chief executives,’ with median earnings above $2,000 per week; none of the most common occupations for women has female median weekly earnings at that level.

 

All of the most common occupations that have too few women to calculate the gender earnings ratio are middle-skill occupations, which require more than high school but less than a bachelor’s degree; across all middle-skill occupations, workers in female-dominated occupations earn only 66 percent of workers in male-dominated occupations.[10]

Table 1. The Gender Wage Gap in the 20 Most Common Occupations for Women (Full-Time Workers Only), 2016

Note: Earnings data are published only for occupations with an estimated minimum of 50,000 workers. N/A=No data or does not meet BLS publication criteria.

Source: IWPR calculation of data from the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017. Household Data Annual Averages. Table 39. “Median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers by detailed occupation and sex.” <http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat39.htm> (retrieved March 2017).

 

Table 2. The Wage Gap in the 20 Most Common Occupations for Men (Full-Time Workers Only), 2016

 

Note: Earnings data are published only for occupations with an estimated minimum of 50,000 workers. N/A=No data or does not meet BLS publication criteria.

Source: IWPR calculation of data from the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017. Household Data Annual Averages. Table 39. “Median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers by detailed occupation and sex.” <http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat39.htm> (retrieved March 2017).

 

Almost Three Times as Many Women as Men Work in Occupations with Poverty-Level Wages

Low earnings are a significant problem for both male and female full-time workers, but poverty-level wages are much more likely for women than men. Among all occupations, 4.6 million women work full-time in occupations with median earnings for full-time work for women that are lower than 100 percent of the federal poverty threshold for a family of four, $468 per week in 2016, compared with 1.5 million men in occupations where median weekly earnings for men are below this poverty threshold.[11] The poverty level refers to annual income, and using weekly earnings to calculate a poverty wage assumes that a worker can get full-time work for 52 weeks a year; this may not always be possible in occupations characterized by considerable fluctuations in demand for labor and, hence, unstable earning opportunities. Workers in these occupations likely experience greater poverty than suggested by their weekly wages.

 

Two of the most common occupations for women (employing 4.5 percent of all full-time working women)—‘cashiers’ and ‘maids and household cleaners’—compared  with only one of the most common occupations for men—‘cooks’ (employing 1.4 percent of all full-time working men)—have median earnings for all workers below the poverty threshold for a family of four. A further five of the most common female, and nine of the most common male, occupations provide median earnings for all workers of less than 150 percent of the poverty threshold for a family of four, $702 per week in 2016.[12] Workers in these occupations are potentially placed among the working poor, with earnings that are often too high to qualify for public support, but too low to attain economic security. Ten of the twenty most common occupations for women have median weekly earnings for women below this ‘near poverty’ threshold (Table 1), and nine of the twenty most common twenty occupations for men have ‘near poverty’ median weekly earnings for men (Table 2).

 

Women Earn Less than Men of the Same Race and Ethnicity in Broad Occupational Categories

The gender wage gap differs by race and ethnicity. Table 3 provides median weekly earnings for women and men for full-time work by race and ethnicity in seven broad occupational groups. (The sample size in the Current Population Survey is not sufficient to provide earnings estimates by race and ethnicity at a more detailed occupational level, or for other racial or ethnic groups.)

 

The distribution of women across the occupations varies for each group (Table 3):

  • More than one-third of Asian women, as well as a third of White women, more than one-quarter of Black women, and almost one-fifth of Hispanic women, work in ‘professional and related’ occupations;
  • Black and Hispanic women are more than twice as likely to work in ‘service’ occupations as White women;
  • Asian women are considerably less likely than other women to work in ‘office and administrative support’ occupations; and
  • Hispanic women are the most likely group of women to work in ‘production, transportation and material moving’ occupations.

The size of the overall wage gap is heavily dependent on the racial and ethnic composition of the working population. For all occupations considered together, Hispanic women have the lowest median earnings at $586 per week (57.2 percent of the median weekly earnings of non-Hispanic White men—$1,025, Table 3). Black women have median weekly earnings of $641 or 62.5 percent of the median weekly earnings of White men. Both Asian men and women have the highest median weekly earnings at $1,151 and $902, respectively. The earnings ratios for Asian women compared with Asian men, at 78.4 percent, and White women compared with White men, at 79.5 percent, are lower than the gender earnings ratio for the whole population (81.9 percent), and the wage gaps (21.6 percent and 20.5 percent respectively, compared with 18.1 percent) are larger. The wage gaps between Black female and male workers and Hispanic female and male workers are smaller than that between all women and men.[13]

 

Men have higher median earnings than women of the same race or ethnicity in each of the major occupational groupings, except for Black women and men in ‘office and administrative support’ and ‘natural resources, construction, and maintenance’ occupations, where the median earnings of Black women are slightly higher than Black men’s earnings (Table 3). The gender earnings gap is magnified by a racial and ethnic earnings gap. For example, Hispanic women in ‘natural resources, construction, and maintenance’ occupations earn 71.7 percent of Hispanic men’s and only 50.4 percent of White men’s earnings in these occupations.

 

The median weekly earnings of Hispanic women are lower than the federal poverty threshold for a family of four in three occupational groups: ‘service’ occupations, ‘natural resources, construction, and maintenance’ occupations, and ‘production, transportation, and material moving’ occupations. These three occupational groups employ nearly two in five Hispanic full-time women workers (38.5 percent; Table 3). The median earnings of Black women are lower than the federal poverty threshold for a family of four in ‘service’ occupations.

 

Tackling Women’s Low Earnings and the Gender Wage Gap

More than fifty years after the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 made discrimination illegal, a gender earnings gap remains. Our analysis shows that women’s median earnings are lower than men’s in all the 20 most common occupations for women, all the most common occupations for men, and, indeed, in almost all occupations for which a gender wage gap can be calculated. Female-dominated occupations tend to have lower median earnings than male-dominated occupations, a pattern which has a particularly pernicious impact on the women who work in the lowest paid female-dominated occupations. Poverty-level wages are especially common for Hispanic women.

 

While low-wage work can be found across the economy, it is particularly prevalent in jobs that involve the education and care of children, the elderly and the infirm, work that traditionally was done by women at home, and often continues to be done almost exclusively by women when it is paid. Many of these jobs are low paid even though workers are expected to have at least a high school diploma and some post-secondary certificates.[14] If women were paid the same per hour as men of the same age, education, and rural or urban residence, poverty rates for working women would be cut in half.[15]

 

To improve women’s earnings and reduce the gender earnings gap, women need stronger efforts to ensure non-discriminatory hiring and pay practices, better training and career counseling, and improved work-family supports. Public policy such as raising the minimum wage, which increases wages in the lowest-paid jobs, is especially important for women, and particularly women of color. After considerable progress in the 1980s and 1990s, progress towards the greater gender integration of occupations has stalled, approximately at the same time as progress towards closing the gender wage gap.[16] Women need better access to well paid jobs that are currently primarily done by men, and they need better terms and conditions, and better pay, for the jobs that are primarily done by women. Investing in the public care infrastructure will not only improve the pay and economic security of workers in those jobs, it will also make it easier for women and men with care responsibilities to stay economically active and advance in their careers.

 

Table 3: Median Weekly Earnings for Female and Male Workers, by Race and Ethnicity for Broad Occupational Groups (Full-Time Workers Only), 2016

Note: Data for White workers is for Whites alone, non-Hispanic; data for Black and Asian workers may include Hispanics. Hispanics may be of any race.

Source: IWPR calculation of unpublished data based on U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Table A-2. “Usual weekly earnings of employed full-time wage and salary workers by intermediate occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity and Non-Hispanic ethnicity, Annual Average 2016.”


Notes

[1] This fact sheet shows median weekly earnings for full-time (35 hours or more per week) wage and salaried workers ages 16 and older (excluding the self-employed) based on Current Population Survey (CPS) annual averages. Earnings data are made available only where there are an estimated minimum of 50,000 workers in an occupation; many occupations have fewer than 50,000 women and/or men working within them and earnings data are not published; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2017. “Household Data Annual Averages Table 39. Median weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers by detailed occupation and sex.” <http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat39.pdf> (accessed March 17, 2017).

[2] The occupation of ‘personal financial advisors’ is 35.6 percent female, with median weekly earnings for full-time work of $953 for women and $1,714 for men; five other occupations—‘insurance sales agents,’ ‘physicians and surgeons,’ ‘real estate brokers and sales agents,’ ‘securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents,’ and ‘marketing and sales managers’—have a gender earnings ratio of less than 66%; men’s median weekly earnings are higher than $1,000 in each of these;  IWPR calculation based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017), as above.

[3] Because of small sample sizes of men in these occupations, the specific occupations in which women earn more than men differ from year to year, and the earnings differences are not likely to be statistically significant. Most likely, the typical woman in any of these four occupation (which are disproportionately female occupations) has more years of experience than the typical man in each of these occupations, which may elevate the typical woman’s wage. The occupation of ‘sewing machine operators’ is 69.1 percent female, with median weekly earnings of $452 for women and $407 for men, and a gender earnings ratio of 111.1 percent; median weekly earnings for ‘combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food’ (63.8 percent female) are $402 for women and $381 for men (an earnings ratio of 105.5 percent); for ‘teacher assistants’ (90.5 percent female) are $525 for women and $501 for men (an earnings ratio of 104.8 percent); and for ‘counselors’ (72 percent female) are $907 for women and $892 for men (an earnings ratio of 101.7 percent); IWPR calculation based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2017), as above.

[4] Another measure of the gender earnings ratio based on median annual earnings for full-time, year-round work, which includes the self-employed and annual bonus and commission payments, was 79.6 percent (a gender wage gap of 20.4 percent) in 2015; 2016 data will not be published until fall 2017. See Ariane Hegewisch and Emma Williams-Baron. 2017. “The Gender Wage Gap 2016: Earnings Differences by Gender, Race, and Ethnicity.” Fact Sheet, IWPR #C454. Washington, DC: Institute for Women’s Policy Research. <https://iwpr.org/publications/gender-wage-gap-2016-weekly/>.

[5] See Ariane Hegewisch and Heidi Hartmann. 2014. “Occupational Segregation and the Gender Wage Gap: A Job Half Done.” Scholar’s Paper to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Publication of the Report of President Kennedy’s Commission on the Status of American Women. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor <http://www.dol.gov/asp/evaluation/reports/WBPaperSeries.pdf> (accessed March 2017). The Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act of 1998 defines a nontraditional occupation for women as one where women are fewer than 25 percent of workers; female-dominated occupations are those in which at least three of four workers are women; male-dominated occupations are those in which at least three of four workers are men.

[6] Teachers at the same level are generally paid similarly, and it is possible that the weekly wage differential of $145 shown here is due to women and men working at different job levels within this broad category for teachers, or possibly to more men than women taking on extra duties such as coaching or leading special programs.

[7] In 2010, differences of employment across occupations explained 32.9 percent of the gender wage gap and differences in the distribution of women’s and men’s employment across industries explained 17.6 percent; Francine D. Blau and Lawrence Kahn. 2016. “The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends, and Explanations” NBER Working Paper No. 21913. <http://www.nber.org/papers/w21913> (accessed March 17, 2017).

[8] See note 5 above for definition of female- and male-dominated occupations. When part-time workers are included, the share of male workers working in male-dominated occupations is lower, at 42.2 percent; the share of women workers in female-dominated occupations is also lower, at 38.4 percent; IWPR calculation based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2017. “Household Data Annual Averages Table 11. Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.” <http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.htm> (accessed March 17, 2017).

[9] When part-time workers are included, 5.6 percent of women work in nontraditional occupations for women, and 4.9 percent of men work in nontraditional occupations for men; source as note 8 above.

[10] See Ariane Hegewisch, Marc Bendick, Barbara Gault, and Heidi Hartmann. 2016. Pathways to Equity: Narrowing the Wage Gap by Improving Women’s Access to Good Middle-Skill Jobs. Washington, DC: Institute for Women’s Policy Research, <www.womenandgoodjobs.org> (accessed March 17, 2017); calculations based on median annual earnings for full-time year-round workers.

[11] The 2016 federal poverty threshold for a family of four was $24,339 ($468 per week for 52 weeks); see U.S. Census Bureau. 2016. “Poverty Thresholds.” <http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/threshld/index.html> (retrieved March 22, 2017).

[12] At 150 percent of the poverty level, the annual income threshold in 2016 was $36,509 ($702 per week for 52 weeks); U.S. Census Bureau as above.

[13] See Hegewisch and Williams-Baron 2017, note four above.

[14] For an analysis of the largest female-dominated low-wage occupations, see Elyse Shaw, Ariane Hegewisch, Emma Williams-Barron, and Barbara Gault. 2016. Undervalued and Underpaid in America: Women in Low-Wage, Female-Dominated Jobs Washington, DC: Institute for Women’s Policy Research <https://iwpr.org/wp-content/uploads/wpallimport/files/iwpr-export/publications/D508%20Undervalued%20and%20Underpaid.pdf>.

[15] See Heidi Hartmann, Jeff Hayes, and Jennifer Clark. 2014. “How Equal Pay for Working Women would Reduce Poverty and Grow the American Economy.” IWPR Briefing Paper #C41; Washington, DC: Institute for Women’s Policy Research < https://iwpr.org/publications/how-equal-pay-for-working-women-would-reduce-poverty-and-grow-the-american-economy/>

[16] See Hegewisch and Hartmann, at note 5 above.