For young women, good news on pay equity

Young women living in big-city metro areas are increasingly likely to earn just as much — or more — than their male peers.

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Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) arrives for an event celebrating Equal Pay Day in the East Room of the White House on March 15, 2022

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi arrives for an event celebrating Equal Pay Day in the East Room of the White House on March 15.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

There’s encouraging news for young working women in a new analysis that shows the gender pay gap narrowing significantly among young workers in a number of the nation’s larger metro areas.

That includes the Chicago metro area, where the median annual earnings in 2019 for women younger than 30 were 94% of earnings for young men: $35,000 vs. $37,288.

In 22 big-city metro areas — the New York and Washington, D.C. metro areas among them — young women’s median 2019 earnings actually reached parity with, or even exceeded, male earnings.

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About 16% of women under 30 who were working full-time lived in one of those 22 metro areas, the Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data, released Monday, found.

Nationwide, young women now earn about 93 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn.

All of which is good news, especially coming as it did soon after Equal Pay Day on March 15.

Even so, in more than half of the 250 metro areas analyzed, young women have yet to catch up to the 93-cent average.

As experts have pointed out, the narrowing of the gender pay gap has been driven by factors such as more education — women are more likely to be admitted to and graduate from college, and are now more often pursuing careers in higher-paying fields such as law, medicine and engineering — as well as pay equity laws.

And if past trends are any indication, millennial women may well see their earnings decline over time compared with men, just as Baby Boomer and Gen-X women have. As one example, in 2000, women under 30 earned 88 cents for every dollar young men earned — but by 2019, their earnings shrank to just 80 cents for every dollar earned by young men.

The gender gap in pay — some of which is due to discrimination, some of which arises from different life choices — is narrowing. But as the saying goes, it’s still a thing.

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