The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation 2018

Ariane Hegewisch, M.Phil., Adiam Tesfaselassie

April 2, 2019
  • ID: C480

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 125 occupations.[1] The occupation with the largest gender wage gap is ‘securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents’ in 2018; women’s median weekly earnings for full-time work in this occupation were just 63.9 percent of those of men’s, corresponding to a gender wage gap of 36.1 percent.[2] The median gender earnings ratio for all full-time weekly workers was 81.1 percent, a weekly gender wage gap of 18.9 percent (Table 1).[3]

 

Altogether, there are just five occupations in which women’s median earnings are at least 105 percent of men’s, while there are 108 occupations in which women’s median earnings were 95 percent or less than men’s (that is, a wage gap of at least 5 cents per dollar earned by men). In general, the highest paid occupations have the biggest gender gaps; all but one of the ten occupations with the largest gender wage gaps have earnings that are higher than median earnings for all full-time workers ($886). The occupation with the highest earnings gap in favor of women is ‘combined food preparation and serving workers, including fast food,’ with a median weekly gender earnings ratio of 115.9 percent, a gender wage gap in favor of women of 15.9 percent, and median weekly earnings for all full-time workers of just $436.[4]

 

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’—one of the most common occupations for women and a female-dominated field—earn $982 per week (compared with $1,148 for men; Table 1).[6] Men in ‘software developers, applications and systems software’—one the most common occupations for men and a male-dominated field—earn $1,894 per week for full-time work (compared with $1,644 for women; Table 2). Both occupations require at least a bachelor’s degree. Tackling occupational segregation—many men working in occupations with other men, and many women 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 five 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 (39.0 percent) work in female-dominated occupations and nearly half of men (48.0 percent) work in male-dominated occupations.[8] Only 7.2 percent of women work in male-dominated occupations, while only 5.1 percent of men work in female-dominated occupations.[9]

 

Women Earn Less than Men in 18 of the 20 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 41.9 percent of women and 15.6 percent of men working full-time. The three largest occupations—‘elementary and middle school teachers,’ ‘registered nurses,’ and ‘secretaries and administrative assistants’—together employ 12.7 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 $1,341 per week for ‘managers, all other’ to $457 per week for ‘maids and housekeeping cleaners’ (Table 1). Women earn less than men in all but two 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 70.7 percent (corresponding to a wage gap of 29.3 percent, which amounts to $522 dollars less per week for women than men) and the second largest gap is for ‘retail salespersons’ with a ratio of 71.1 percent (corresponding to a wage gap of 28.9 percent or $221 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 33.2 percent of male full-time workers and 16.5 percent of female full-time workers. Eight of the occupations are nontraditional for women,[10] and in five of the 20—‘construction laborers,’ ‘carpenters,’ ‘grounds maintenance workers,’ ‘automotive service technicians and mechanics,’ and ‘electricians,’—there are too few women workers to estimate their median weekly earnings. Across all construction trade occupations, women’s median weekly earnings were $785, compared with $834 for men, a gender earnings ratio of 94 percent.[11]

 

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 $2,488 for ‘chief executives’ to $518 for ‘cooks’ (Table 2). Three of the 20 most common occupations for men have median male weekly earnings above $1,500, including one, ‘chief executives,’ at$2,488 per week; none of the most common occupations for women has female median weekly earnings at that level.

 

All of the most common occupations with too few women workers 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 what workers in male-dominated occupations earn.[12]

 

Table 1. The Gender Wage Gap in the 20 Most Common Occupations for Women (Full-Time Workers Only), 2018

Table 1. The Gender Wage Gap in the 20 Most Common Occupations for Women (Full-Time Workers Only), 2018

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, 2018. 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 2019).

 

Table 2. The Wage Gap in the 20 Most Common Occupations for Men  (Full-Time Workers Only), 2018

Table 2. The Wage Gap in the 20 Most Common Occupations for Men  (Full-Time Workers Only), 2018

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, 2018. 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 2019).

 

More than Five 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, almost 4 million women full-time workers are in occupations with median weekly earnings for women that are lower than 100 percent of the federal poverty threshold for a family of four, $490 per week in 2018; this compares with 0.74 million men in occupations where median weekly earnings for men are below this poverty threshold.[13] These numbers rise to 13.8 million full-time working women, compared with 8.6 million full-time working men, when using the slightly higher eligibility threshold for SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) of $628 per week for a family of four. [14] Workers in these occupations likely experience greater poverty than suggested by their weekly wages. The poverty threshold refers to annual, and SNAP eligibility to monthly, income; using weekly earnings to calculate a poverty wage assumes that a worker can get full-time work for four weeks a month and 52 weeks a year; this may not always be possible in occupations characterized by unpredictable schedules and considerable fluctuations in demand for labor and, hence, unstable earning opportunities.

 

Two of the most common occupations for women—‘cashiers’ and ‘maids and household cleaners’ (employing 3.4 percent of all full-time working women) have median weekly earnings for all workers below the poverty threshold for a family of four; one of the most common occupations for men—‘cooks’—has such low median earnings for all workers (men’s earnings are marginally above the threshold). Seven of the most common occupations for women have median weekly earnings for women below the SNAP eligibility threshold; four of the most common occupations for men have such low median earnings for men.

 

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):

  • The most common occupational group for Asian, White, and Black women is ‘professional and related’ occupations; ‘service’ occupations is the most common group for Hispanic women.
  • One in five White and Asian women, compared with one in eight Black and one in nine Hispanic women work in ‘management, business, and financial’ occupations.
  • Black and Hispanic women are more than twice as likely to work in ‘service’ occupations as White women.[15]
  • 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 working full-time have the lowest median earnings at $617 per week (55.5 percent of the median weekly earnings of non-Hispanic White men—$1,111, Table 3). Black women have median weekly earnings of $654, 58.9 percent of the median weekly earnings of White men. Both Asian men and women have the highest median weekly earnings, at $1,241 and $937, respectively, reflecting that they have the highest rates of educational attainment among these demographic groups. The earnings ratios for Asian women compared with Asian men, at 75.5 percent, and White women compared with White men, at 78.6 percent, are lower than the gender earnings ratio for the whole population (81.1 percent), and the wage gaps (24.5 percent and 21.5 percent respectively, compared with 18.9 percent) are larger. The wage gaps between Black female and male workers and Hispanic female and male workers are smaller than between all women and men, largely because the men in these groups have very low earnings, too.[16]

 

Men have higher median earnings than women of the same race or ethnicity in each of the major occupational groupings, except for Black and Hispanic workers in ‘office and administrative support’ and Black workers in ‘natural resources, construction, and maintenance’ occupations, where the median earnings of women are slightly higher than same-race and -ethnicity men’s earnings (Table 3). The gender earnings gap is magnified by a racial and ethnic earnings gap. For example, Black women in ‘management, business, and financial’ occupations earn 87.2 percent of Black men’s but only 65.1 percent of White men’s earnings in these occupations.

 

The median weekly earnings of Black and Hispanic women are at or lower than the federal poverty threshold for a family of four in ‘service’ occupations, and the median weekly earnings of Hispanic women is just $9 above the poverty threshold in ‘production, transportation, and material moving’ occupations. These two occupational groups employ nearly four in ten Hispanic full-time women workers (36.9 percent; Table 3).

 

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 but two of 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 credentials.[17] 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.[18]

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.[19] 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), 2018

Table 3: Median Weekly Earnings for Female and Male Workers, by Race and Ethnicity for Broad Occupational Groups (Full-Time Workers Only), 2018

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 2018.”

 

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 for the calendar year 2018. 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. 2019. “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 20, 2019).

[2] The occupation of ‘securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents’ is 33.5 percent female, with median weekly earnings for full-time work of $1,047 for women and $1,639 for men; three other occupations—‘physicians and surgeons,’ ‘sales and related workers, all others,’ and ‘credit counselors and loan officers’—have a gender earnings ratio of 67 percent or less (of 66.7, 66.0, and 65.7 percent respectively) ; men’s median weekly earnings are higher than $1,000 in each of these; IWPR calculation based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2018), as above.

[3] 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 81.1 percent (a gender wage gap of 18.9 percent) in 2017; 2018 data will not be published until fall 2019. See Ariane Hegewisch and Heidi Hartmann. 2019. “The Gender Wage Gap 2018: Earnings Differences by Gender, Race, and Ethnicity.” Fact Sheet, IWPR #C478. Washington, DC: Institute for Women’s Policy Research. < https://iwpr.org/publications/gender-wage-gap-2018/ >.

[4] The other four occupations in which women’s median full-time weekly earnings are at least at 105 percent of men’s are ‘reservation and transportation ticket agents and travel clerks’ (112.0 percent); ‘clinical laboratory technologists and technicians’ (111.2 percent), ‘advertising sales agents’ (110.8 percent), and ‘billing and posting clerks’ (109.2 percent).

[5] 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 2019). 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 $166 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. 2017. “The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends, and Explanations” Journal of Economic Literature 55(3): 789-865

[8] See note 5 above for definition of female- and male-dominated occupations. When part-time workers are included, the share of women workers working in female-dominated occupations is lower, at 38.5 percent; the share of men workers in male-dominated occupations is also lower, at 41.8 percent; IWPR calculation based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2018. “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 28, 2019).

[9] When part-time workers are included, 6.0 percent of women work in nontraditional occupations for women, and 5.2 percent of men work in nontraditional occupations for men; source as note 7 above.

[10] See note 5 above for definition of ‘nontraditional’.

[11] During 2018, a record number of women entered the construction trades such as laborers, painters, plumbers, and carpenters; altogether 276,000 women work in construction trade occupations; Ariane Hegewisch (2019) “Women Gain Jobs in Construction Trades but Remain Underrepresented in the Field.” IWPR Fact Sheet C479 <https://iwpr.org/publications/women-jobs-construction-underrepresented/>.

[12] See Hegewisch et al. (2016) at note 4 above; calculations based on median annual earnings for full-time year-round workers.

[13] The 2018 federal poverty threshold for a family of four was $25,465 ($490 per week for 52 weeks); see U.S. Census Bureau. 2019. “Poverty Thresholds.” < https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/income-poverty/historical-poverty-thresholds.html > (retrieved March 2019). The 2018 SNAP eligibility threshold for a family of four at 130 percent of the poverty is $2,720 per month ($628 per week for 52 weeks); see U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2018. “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).” <https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/eligibility> (retrieved March 2019).

[14] When including part- as well as full-time workers, 9.2 million women work in occupations with median weekly earnings for women for full-time work below the poverty threshold for a family of four, and just under a million (989,012) men work in occupations with median weekly earnings for full-time work for men below the poverty threshold. A further 23.3 million women are in occupations paying them full-time weekly earnings below SNAP eligibility, compared with 11.7 million men in occupations paying full-time weekly earnings below SNAP eligibility.

[15] ‘Service occupations’ is a large category, including cleaning, food preparation and serving, healthcare support, personal care services, and protective services.

[16] See Hegewisch and Hartmann 2019, at note 3 above.

[17] 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/publications/undervalued-and-underpaid-in-america-women-in-low-wage-female-dominated-jobs/ > (accessed March 2019).

[18] See Jessica Milli, Ph.D., Yixuan Huang, Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., Jeff Hayes, Ph.D. 2017. “The Impact of Equal Pay on Poverty and the Economy.” IWPR Briefing Paper #C445; Washington, DC: Institute for Women’s Policy Research <https://iwpr.org/publications/impact-equal-pay-poverty-economy/>

[19] 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 2019).

 

This fact sheet was prepared by Ariane Hegewisch and Adiam Tesfaselassie at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Financial support was provided by the Annie. E. Casey Foundation, Ford Foundation, and NoVo Foundation.

 

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