Where Women’s Earnings Go the Furthest

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Updated on Monday, March 8, 2021

Women’s History Month is observed each March to celebrate the contributions that women have made to history and the progress they’ve made toward gender equality.

But a pay gap still leaves women making roughly 82 cents for every dollar men make, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. With this in mind, MagnifyMoney researchers have set out to find the places where women’s earnings go the furthest when compared to living wages, with Hartford, Conn., topping our list.

While the last 100-plus years have brought expanded rights for women on voting, education and even credit cards, there’s still a way to go before gender parity exists.

Key findings

  • Median earnings for women across the 100 largest metros in the U.S. are $44,737, 19% less than the median earnings for men of $55,023.
  • Among those 100 metros, women’s earnings go the furthest in Hartford, Conn. Hartford women, on average, earn $57,125 a year, which covers 181% of basic living costs. Up next was Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (178%), and Albany, N.Y. (176%).
  • McAllen, Texas, Miami and Orlando, Fla., rank as the worst metros among the 100 largest for women’s pay when comparing median earnings to living wages. It’s worth noting, though, that earnings in each of these metros still cover at least 100% of basic living costs.
  • The largest gender pay gap among the metros is in Provo, Utah, where men’s earnings are 40% higher than that of women’s — a difference of $24,747 annually. The smallest gender gap is in Cape Coral, Fla., where women’s earnings are only 5% lower than those of men.

Women’s wages go the furthest in Connecticut and New York

Despite being two of the most expensive U.S. states to live in, some Connecticut and New York metros help make up for it by offering higher earnings for women.

In fact, half of the 10 largest metros in the U.S. where women will see the best value for their earnings (relative to the living wage) can be found in these two states (indeed, the median earnings for women in these metros all fall within the top 20).

While women don’t earn as much as men on average in any of the 100 largest metros we examined, women fare better in these states when comparing their earnings to the cost of living.

Hartford, Conn., tops our list, with women there earning 181% of the cost of living on average. The “Insurance Capital of the World” has more than 100 companies in the industry, which — according to McKinsey & Co. — employs women in 57% of its entry-level positions. Taking that first step into the world of insurance could allow women in Connecticut’s capital a chance to enhance their career opportunities in one of the city’s most prominent industries.

Of note, only three metros outside of the Northeast cracked the top 10 for the value of a woman’s dollar.

Women’s wages don’t stretch as far in Florida

Playing a princess at The Most Magical Place on Earth might help you see the inside of a castle, but working as a woman in Orlando, Fla., probably won’t.

With women in this Florida metro only earning 15% more on average than the living wage, the area best known for being home to Disney World lands close to the bottom of our ranking. Several other Florida metros helped round out the bottom, too.

While those living in Florida enjoy a lower cost of living — especially compared to New York and Connecticut — and no personal income tax, our study found that women in the Miami, Lakeland and Orlando metros still don’t have much left after living expenses for discretionary spending — which might otherwise include building up savings or an investment portfolio.

McAllen, Texas, and Honolulu were the only metros in the bottom five outside of the Sunshine State.

Worst gender pay gaps seen in Utah, while Florida metro ranks as best

On a more positive note, the women just getting by in Florida are closer to being on par with their male counterparts than some other parts of the country. While women in Cape Coral, Fla., make less money than men, the difference is 5% — lowest in our study of the 100 metros.

Meanwhile, Utah has three of the bottom 10 metros that are farthest from parity. In Provo — which ranks last — men’s earnings are 40% more on average than women’s earnings. We saw slightly better outcomes in Ogden and Salt Lake City, as the pay gaps narrow to 34% and 25%, respectively.

While women will have to continue pushing for better wages to get on the same playing field as men, some metros might be decades closer than others to closing the gap.

3 things women can do to try to overcome gender gap

Until systemic changes can be made to level the playing field for women, staying informed and coming up with a working strategy can help women find small ways to combat the effects of gender inequality.

1. Know your worth

Of course, earning a higher salary is typically easier said than done, but ultimately a higher income is one of the biggest factors in building wealth.

If your current salary isn’t cutting it, research to find out if that number is standard for your field or position. If you find your salary below the market standard, you might be better positioned to negotiate a raise.

“The downside, of course, is that women are still often penalized for asking for more money,” said MagnifyMoney content director Ismat Mangla. “So you have to approach the process delicately. In some cases, you might have to consider looking for another job.”

2. Maximize your earning potential

If your current position leaves little room for income growth, explore a path that could bring in more money down the road. Continuing your education or taking on a side gig, Mangla advised, might open up opportunities for a higher salary or extra income.

3. Put your money to work

Regardless of whether you’re able to bring in more cash, make sure the money you have is working as hard as you are.

“Start by learning the basics about investing — and don’t get wowed by hot individual stocks of the moment,” Mangla said.

These days, it’s easy to get swept up in news of day traders getting rich overnight, but they’re often exceptional cases.

“Instead, regularly squirrel your money away in both tax-advantaged and taxable investment accounts, where you focus on diverse investments like broad market index funds,” she said. “That’s how you’ll earn steady returns in the long run.”

Methodology

MagnifyMoney analysts used data from the U.S. Census Bureau and living wage data from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculator to calculate the following for women in the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas:

  • Women’s median earnings (full-time, year-round workers)
  • Women’s hourly wages
  • Hourly living wages
  • Percentage of costs met by median wages
  • Men’s median earnings (full-time, year-round workers)
  • Dollar difference in earnings between men and women
  • Percentage difference in earnings between men and women

Hourly wages were derived by dividing the annual wage by 40 hours over 52 weeks.

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