The gender wage gap by occupation

Citation metadata

Date: Apr. 2012
Publisher: Institute for Women's Policy Research
Document Type: Statistical table
Length: 1,802 words
Lexile Measure: 1640L

Document controls

Main content

Full Text: 

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. During 2011, median weekly earnings for female full-time workers were $684, compared with $832 per week for men, a gender wage ratio of 82.2 percent (Table 1; a gender wage gap of 17.8 percent). (1) 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, particularly at higher levels of educational attainment. (2) Tackling occupational segregation is an important part of tackling the gender wage gap.

The gender wage gap and occupational segregation--men primarily working in occupations done by men, and women primarily working with other women--are persistent features of the U.S. labor market. Only four of the 20 most common occupations for men and the 20 most common occupations for women overlap. Four of ten women (39.5 percent) work in traditionally female occupations and between four and five of ten male workers (44.5 percent) work in traditionally male occupations; only 5.8 percent of women work in traditionally male occupations and only 4.6 percent of men in traditionally female occupations. (3)

Women Earn Less Than Men in (Almost) All of the Most Common Occupations for Women

Table 1 shows the median weekly earnings and the gender wage gap in the 20 most common occupations for full-time working women. The three largest occupations, 'secretaries and administrative assistants', 'elementary and middle school teachers,' and 'registered nurses' together employ more than thirteen percent of all women. More than 40 percent of full-time female employees worked in only 20 occupations, but only 15 percent of full-time male employees work in these occupations. Nine of these occupations are female sex-typed, meaning at least three of four workers are women. One occupation, 'teachers' assistants,' employs too few men to estimate the gender wage gap.

Within women's 20 most common occupations, median full-time weekly earnings for women range from $1,034 per week for 'registered nurses' to $373 per week for 'cashiers' (Table 1). With one exception, 'bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks,' women earn less than men (these calculations include full-time workers only). The gender wage gap among the 20 most common female occupations is largest for 'financial managers,' with a gender median earnings ratio of 66 percent, men's median earnings are more than $500 per week than women's. (4)

Women Earn Less Than Men in (Almost) All of the Most Common Occupations for Men

Table 2 shows the median earnings and the gender wage gap in the 20 most common occupations for full-time working men. These occupations employ three out of ten male and one in seven female full-time workers; twelve of the occupations are non-traditional for women, and in five of the 20, 'automotive service technicians and mechanics,' carpenters,' 'construction laborers,' 'electricians,' and 'grounds maintenance workers,' there are too few women workers to estimate median weekly earnings for women.

Median full-time weekly earnings for men range from $2,122 for 'chief executives' to $406 for 'cooks' (Table 2). Five of the most common 20 occupations have weekly earnings above $1,000, compared with only two of the most common occupations for women. With one exception, 'stock clerks and order fillers,' where women's weekly earnings ($501) are 103 percent of those of men, men earn more than women in the most common male occupations. Women have almost reached parity in the occupation of 'police and sheriffs patrol officers,' where women earn $938 per week, 99 percent of male earnings.

Women are More than Twice as Likely as Men to Work in Occupations with Poverty Wages

Three of the most common occupations for women, 'cashiers,' 'waiters and waitresses,' and 'maids and household cleaners,' and two of the most common occupations for men, 'cooks' and 'grounds maintenance workers,' have median earnings for a full week of work that provide less than 100 percent of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' federal poverty levels for a family of four. (5) The poverty levels refer to annual earnings and translating them into weekly earnings assumes that a worker would be able to get full-time work for 52 weeks a year; this may not always be possible in these occupations (which are characterized by considerable fluctuations in demand for labor and, hence, unstable earning opportunities).

A further seven of the most common female and eight of the most common male occupations provide median earnings of less than 150 percent of the poverty threshold, potentially placing the workers in these occupations among the working poor, with earnings that are often too high to qualify for public supports but too low to attain economic security. These include occupations such as 'teacher assistants' and 'nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides.'

Low earnings are a significant problem for both male and female workers. Yet overall more than twice as many women (5.52 million) than men (2.3 million) work in occupations with median earnings for full-time work below the federal poverty threshold for a family of four. (6)

The Occupational Gender Wage Gap by Race and Ethnicity

The gender wage gap differs by race and ethnic background. Hispanic/Latina women have the lowest median earnings, at $518 per week, 55 percent of the median weekly earnings of white men; black women have median weekly earnings of $595, 64 percent of median weekly earnings of white men. Asians have the highest median weekly earnings, for both men and women, and the highest levels of educational attainment. The wage gaps for Asian women compared with Asian men and white women compared with white men are larger than the wage gap for the whole population; the wage gaps between black female and male workers and Latino male and female workers are smaller. More detailed information is available in IWPR's fact sheet, The Gender Wage Gap: 2011. (7)

Table 3 provides median weekly earnings for full-time work by race and ethnicity in seven intermediate occupational groups; the sample size in the Current Population Survey is not sufficient to provide reliable earnings estimates at a more detailed occupational level. The distribution of women across the occupations varies for each group. At least a quarter of white, black, and Asian women are working in 'professional and related' occupations, compared with under a fifth of Hispanic women; black and Hispanic women are more than twice as likely to work in service occupations than white women; Asian women are considerably less likely than other women to work in 'office and administrative support' occupations, and Hispanic women are most likely to work in 'production, transportation and material moving' occupations (Table 3).

With one exception (black women's earnings are 102 percent of black men's earnings in 'office and administrative support') in each of the major occupational groupings men earn more than women of the same race or ethnicity (Table 3). The gender earnings gap is magnified by a race and ethnic earnings gap: Hispanic women in management, business and finance, for example, earn only 83 percent of Hispanic men in these occupations, while Hispanic men earn only 71 percent of white men's earnings, and Hispanic women earn only 59 percent of white male managers. The median earnings of Hispanic women are lower than the federal poverty levels in three occupational groups, which collectively employ four out of ten (39.5) Hispanic women (Table 3).

Notes

(1) The weekly earnings data in this fact sheet are based on the Current Population Survey (CPS) and refer to full-time (working 35 hours or more per week) wage and salary workers age 16 and older (excluding the self-employed); annual earnings data for 2011 (which include workers 15 years and older as well as the self-employed, with earnings for at least 50 weeks of the year) are not available until Fall 2012; the gender wage gap based on annual earnings was 23 percent in 2010, and the female/male earnings ratio was 77 percent.

(2) See Ariane Hegewisch, Hannah Liepmann, Jeffrey Hayes, and Heidi Hartmann, "Separate and Not Equal? Gender Segregation in the Labor Market and the Gender Wage Gap." IWPR Briefing Paper. Institute for Women's Policy Research: Washington, DC, 2010:, available at <http://www.iwpr.org/publications/pubs/separate-and-not-equalgender- segregation-in-the-labor-market-and-the-gender-wage-gap>

(3) The definition of traditional/non-traditional occupations as having at least 75 percent of the workers of one gender is provided in the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act of 1998 S.250-6. Calculation includes only occupations with an estimated minimum of 50,000 workers. Restricting the calculation to full-time workers only increases segregation: 41.3 percent of women and 52.3 percent of men work full-time in traditional occupations for their gender; and 7.8 percent of women and 4.9 percent of men work full-time in occupations non-traditional for their gender (IWPR compilation of data based on US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Table 11. Employed persons by detailed occupation, sex, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, Annual Average 2011. <http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.pdf>). Effective with January 2011 data, occupations reflect the introduction of the 2010 Census Standard Occupational classification system into the CPS. Data for 2011 are not strictly comparable with earlier years.

(4) Among all occupations, the gender wage gap is largest for women working full-time as 'property, real estate, and community association managers,' with a female/male earnings ratio of 60.6 percent, a gender wage gap of 39.4 percent (IWPR calculation based on same source as Table 1).

(5) The federal poverty levels for a family of four in 2011 was $22,350, or $430 per week for 52 weeks. One-hundred fifty of the poverty level was $33,525, or weekly earnings $645; see U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 'The 2011 HHS Poverty Guidelines', at <http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/11poverty.shtml> (retrieved April 15, 2012)

(6) IWPR calculation based on same source as Table 1.

(7) The fact sheet is available at <http://www.iwpr.org/publications/pubs/the-gender-wage-gap-2011>.

This fact sheet was prepared by Ariane Hegewisch, Claudia Williams, and Vanessa Harbin of the Institute for Women's Policy Research. Financial support was provided by the Annie. E. Casey Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

For more information on IWPR reports or membership, please call (202) 785-5100, e-mail iwpr@iwpr.org, or visit www.iwpr.org.

The Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) conducts rigorous research and disseminates its findings to address the needs of women, promote public dialogue, and strengthen families, communities, and societies. The Institute works with policymakers, scholars, and public interest groups to design, execute, and disseminate research that illuminates economic and social policy issues affecting women and their families, and to build a network of individuals and organizations that conduct and use women-oriented policy research. IWPR's work is supported by foundation grants, government grants and contracts, donations from individuals, and contributions from organizations and corporations. IWPR is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that also works in affiliation with the women's studies and public policy programs at The George Washington University.

Table 1: The Wage Gap in the 20 Most Common Occupations for
Women (Full-Time Workers Only), 2011

                                 Women's      Women's        Men's
                                  median     earnings       median
                                  weekly    as percent      weekly
All full-time workers,          earnings     of men's     earnings
all occupations                     $684        82.2%         $832

20 most common occupations
for women

Secretaries and                     $651        86.0%         $757
  administrative assistants
Elementary and middle               $933        91.3%       $1,022
  school teachers
Registered nurses                 $1,034        95.7%       $1,081
Nursing, psychiatric, and           $446        88.8%         $502
  home health aides
Customer service                    $569        90.6%         $628
  representatives
Cashiers                            $373        90.8%         $411
First-line supervisors of           $599        78.9%         $759
  retail sales workers
First-line supervisors/             $741        89.0%         $833
  managers of office and
  administrative workers
Accountants and auditors            $956        76.5%       $1,250
Receptionists and                   $520        99.8%         $521
  information clerks
Bookkeeping, accounting,            $656       100.3%         $654
  and auditing clerks
Managers, all other               $1,047        74.5%       $1,406
Retail salespersons                 $466        75.2%         $620
Office clerks, general              $594        83.4%         $712
Maids and housekeeping              $392        82.9%         $473
  cleaners
Secondary school teachers           $989        94.3%       $1,049
Financial managers                  $991        65.9%       $1,504
Teacher assistants                  $471           --           --
Waiters and waitresses              $389        83.5%         $466
Social workers                      $798        88.5%         $902
Percent of all women and
  men:

                                 Share of
                                   female     Number of     Number of
                               workers in          male        female
All full-time workers,         occupation       workers       workers
all occupations                     44.3%    55,971,000    44,486,000

                                               Share of      Share of
                                                   male        female
                                             workers in    workers in
                                             occupation    occupation
                                             as percent    as percent
20 most common occupations                   of all male       of all
for women                                       workers        female
                                                              workers

Secretaries and                     96.1%          0.2%          4.6%
  administrative assistants
Elementary and middle               81.0%          0.8%           4.4%
  school teachers
Registered nurses                   90.3%          0.4%           4.4%
Nursing, psychiatric, and           86.9%          0.3%           2.6%
  home health aides
Customer service                    64.4%          1.0%           2.2%
  representatives
Cashiers                            71.6%          0.7%           2.2%
First-line supervisors of           43.1%          2.3%          2.2%
  retail sales workers
First-line supervisors/             67.2%          0.8%           1.9%
  managers of office and
  administrative workers
Accountants and auditors            61.6%          1.0%           1.9%
Receptionists and                   91.0%          0.1%           1.8%
  information clerks
Bookkeeping, accounting,            87.0%          0.2%          1.7%
  and auditing clerks
Managers, all other                 36.0%          2.3%           1.7%
Retail salespersons                 41.0%          1.9%           1.7%
Office clerks, general              84.8%          0.2%           1.5%
Maids and housekeeping              85.0%          0.2%          1.4%
  cleaners
Secondary school teachers           57.2%          0.8%           1.3%
Financial managers                  54.3%          0.9%           1.3%
Teacher assistants                     --          0.1%           1.3%
Waiters and waitresses              64.1%          0.6%          1.3%
Social workers                      81.0%          0.2%           1.3%
Percent of all women and            14.7%                        42.4%
  men:

Note: * Earnings data are published only for occupations with an
estimated minimum of 50,000 workers.

Source: IWPR compilation of data from the U.S. Department of Labor,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011.

"Household Data, Annual Averages. Table 39." <http://www.bls.
gov/cps/cpsaat39.htm> (retrieved April 2012).

Table 2: The Wage Gap in the 20 Most Common Occupations for Men
(Full-Time Workers Only), 2011

                                                        Women's
                                  Men's     Women's    earnings
                                 median      median          as
                                 weekly      weekly     percent
                               earnings    earnings    of men's
All workers                        $832        $684       82.2%

20 most common occupations
for men

Driver/sales workers and           $712        $511       71.8%
  truck drivers
Managers, all other              $1,406      $1,047       74.5%
First-line supervisors of          $759        $599       78.9%
  retail sales workers
Janitors and building              $514        $418       81.3%
  cleaners
Laborers and freight, stock, an    $520        $416       80.0%
Retail salespersons                $620        $466       75.2%
Construction laborers              $587          --          --
Sales representatives, whole-    $1,019        $927       91.0%
  sale and manufacturing
Software developers, applica-    $1,606      $1,388       86.4%
  tions and systems software
Cooks                              $406        $363       89.4%
Chief executives                 $2,122      $1,464       69.0%
Grounds maintenance workers        $424          --          --
Carpenters                         $630          --          --
Stock clerks and order             $488        $501      102.7%
  fillers
General and operations           $1,319        $972       73.7%
  managers
Automotive service technicians     $718          --          --
Security guards and gaming         $544        $474       87.1%
  surveillance officers
Police and sheriffs patrol         $948        $938       98.9%
  officers
Electricians                       $855          --          --
Customer service                   $628        $569       90.6%
  representatives
Percent of all women and
  men:

                                 Share of
                                   female
                               workers in     Number of     Number of
                               occupation          male        female
                                (percent)       workers       workers
All workers                         44.3%     55,971,000    44,486,000

                                               Share of      Share of
                                                   male        female
                                             workers in    workers in
                                             occupation    occupation
                                             as percent    as percent
20 most common occupations                   of all male       of all
for men                                         workers        female
                                                              workers
Driver/sales workers and             4.2%          4.2%          0.2%
  truck drivers
Managers, all other                 36.0%          2.3%          1.7%
First-line supervisors of           43.1%          2.3%          2.2%
  retail sales workers
Janitors and building               25.7%          2.0%          0.9%
  cleaners
Laborers and freight, stock, an     13.9%          1.9%          0.4%
Retail salespersons                 41.0%          1.9%          1.6%
Construction laborers                1.7%          1.5%          0.0%
Sales representatives, whole-       24.0%          1.5%          0.6%
  sale and manufacturing
Software developers, applica-       18.1%          1.5%          0.4%
  tions and systems software
Cooks                               37.1%          1.4%          1.0%
Chief executives                    24.7%          1.3%          0.6%
Grounds maintenance workers          3.8%          1.3%          0.1%
Carpenters                           1.4%          1.3%          0.0%
Stock clerks and order              34.0%          1.2%          0.8%
  fillers
General and operations              29.3%          1.2%          0.6%
  managers
Automotive service technicians       1.2%          1.2%          0.0%
Security guards and gaming          20.1%          1.1%          0.4%
  surveillance officers
Police and sheriffs patrol          11.5%          1.0%          0.2%
  officers
Electricians                         0.6%          1.0%          0.0%
Customer service                    64.4%          1.0%          2.2%
  representatives
Percent of all women and                          31.9%         13.7%
  men:

Note: Earnings data are made available only where there are an
estimated minimum of 50,000 workers in an occupation.

Source: IWPR compilation of data from the U.S. Department of Labor,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011.

"Household Data, Annual Averages. Table 39." <http://www.bls.
gov/cps/cpsaat39.htm> (retrieved April 2012).

Table 3: Median Weekly Earnings for Male and Female Workers, by Broad
Occupational Classification and Race and Ethnic Background (Full-Time
Workers Only), 2011

                             White Women            Black or African
Female Workers            (Non-Hispanic Only)       American Women *

     Occupation         Median    White women    Median    Black women
                        weekly        in         weekly        in
                       earnings   occupation    earnings   occupation
                         ($)      as % of all     ($)      as % of all
                                    female                   female
                                     white                    black
                                    workers                  workers

Management,             $1,001       18.5%        $889        12.8%
business, and
financial operations
occupations

Professional and         $939        32.4%        $796        25.8%
related occupations

Service occupations      $450        11.9%        $432        24.1%

Sales and related        $600        9.3%         $442        8.3%
occupations

Office and               $625        22.8%        $590        21.5%
administrative
support occupations

Natural resources,       $619        0.7%         $552        0.6%
construction, and
maintenance
occupations

Production,              $533        4.4%         $490        6.9%
transportation, and
material moving
occupations

                               Asian Women          Latina or Hispanic
Female Workers                                           Women

     Occupation         Median    Asian women    Median      Latina
                        weekly        in         weekly     women in
                       earnings   occupation    earnings   occupation
                         ($)      as % of all     ($)      as % of all
                                    female                   female
                                     Asian                   Latina
                                    workers                  workers

Management,             $1,131       17.7%        $847        10.5%
business, and
financial operations
occupations

Professional and        $1,115       30.8%        $806        18.4%
related occupations

Service occupations      $480        18.2%        $402        25.9%

Sales and related        $538        8.6%         $437        9.4%
occupations

Office and               $694        15.9%        $576        22.3%
administrative
support occupations

Natural resources,       $503        0.7%         $379        2.0%
construction, and
maintenance
occupations

Production,              $461        8.1%         $405        11.6%
transportation, and
material moving
occupations

                             White Men              Black or African
Male Workers              (Non-Hispanic Only)        American Men *

                                    White men                 Black men
                                       in                        in
Occupation                         occupation                occupation
                        Median     as % of all    Median     as % of all
                        weekly     male white     weekly     male black
                       earnings      workers     earnings      workers

Management,
business, and           $1,431       18.30%       $1,044        9.7%
financial operations
occupations

Professional and        $1,245       20.90%        $912         15.0%
related occupations

Service occupations      $632        10.40%        $501         20.5%

Sales and related        $873        10.50%        $603         7.5%
occupations

Office and               $712         6.20%        $579         9.9%
administrative

support occupations      $823        16.40%        $663         11.5%
Natural resources,
construction, and
maintenance
occupations

Production,              $713        17.40%        $595         25.8%
transportation, and
material moving
occupations

                             Asian Men              Latino or Hispanic
Male Workers                                               Men

                                    Asian men                Latino men
                                       in                        in
Occupation                         occupation                occupation
                        Median     as % of all    Median     as % of all
                        weekly     male Asian     weekly     male Latino
                       earnings      workers     earnings      workers

Management,
business, and           $1,434        16.1%       $1,026        7.2%
financial operations
occupations

Professional and        $1,403        35.5%       $1,012        8.1%
related occupations

Service occupations      $535         13.5%        $444         20.3%

Sales and related        $772         7.8%         $619         6.6%
occupations

Office and               $741         6.6%         $583         7.3%
administrative

support occupations      $756         6.6%         $533         26.2%
Natural resources,
construction, and
maintenance
occupations

Production,              $584         13.9%        $525         24.3%
transportation, and
material moving
occupations

Note: * Data for black or African Americans may include black
Hispanics or Latinos.

Source: IWPR compilation of data based on U.S. 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 2011.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A294194564