September 2, 2010
In most areas of the country, young, single, childless women are earning more than their male counterparts.
The Wall Street Journal reported that in 2008, single, childless women between 22 and 30 years old earned 8 percent more on average than comparable men in most U.S. cities. The trend was first identified several years ago, but only in the country's biggest metropolises such as San Francisco and New York. Now, however, the trend has expanded to smaller cities and more industries.
According to USA Today, young women out-earned men in 39 of the 50 biggest cities and matched them in eight. The difference was most pronounced in cities where minority groups made up more than half the population. The greatest disparity was found in Atlanta, with childless single women earning 21 percent more than their male counterparts.
Education seemed to be the major reason for the trend. USA Today noted that "nearly three-quarters of girls who graduate from high school head to college, vs. two-thirds of the boys". James Chung, president of Reach Advisors, a private research firm that analyzed the data gathered by the Census Bureau, told NPR, "At this point in time, young women are 1.5 times more likely to earn college degrees than their male counterparts. That's a huge difference. And it's starting to reflect in the average income."
Chung also noted that male-dominated industries, such as manufacturing, were hit hard during the recession so many good-paying jobs for young men were wiped out.
Overall, however, women have yet to reach equal status in any particular job. Chung stated that women make roughly 80 percent of what men make. Jacqueline King, a policy analyst for the American Council on Education, agreed: "If you were to compare women to men with similar levels of education, you would find that the men still earn more, in part because they tend to choose higher paying fields." The Wall Street Journal reported that between 2006 and 2008, women with a bachelor's degree had median earnings of $39,571, compared to $59,079 for men at the same education level.
NPR raised the question of whether this advantage will continue, particularly as this group of women gets older, marries or has children. Typically, women see their wages plateau or drop after having children. Some believe this may be changing. Andrew Beveridge, a professor at Queens College at the City University of New York, told The Wall Street Journal, "I expect the trend to continue." According to NPR, Chung agreed: "We're seeing a preview of the post-recession economy." Chung plans to track the women who were surveyed over the next few years to see whether the trend does, indeed, continue.
Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin
"Women's Salaries Back On Top For Younger Set," NPR.org, September 1, 2010, Yuki Noguchi
"Young, single, childless women out-earn male counterparts," USAToday.com, September 1, 2010, Paul Wiseman
"Young Women's Pay Exceeds Male Peers'," online.wsj.com, September 1, 2010, Conor Dougherty