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Puerto Rico is the Only U.S. State or Territory where Women earn More than Men
Todays Guest Blogger is Kevin Mead . Kevin is a writer for Caribbean Business, published in Puerto Rico.
Women aiming to earn more than men would do well to take a good look at Puerto Rico, where a wage-gap reversal has put the island in a unique position in the United States.
Puerto Rico is the only U.S. state or territory where women earn more than men, according to newly released Census Bureau data.
In fact, women in Puerto Rico pull in 103 percent of what men earn on the island, the 2009 American Community Survey found.
It was the second year in a row that Puerto Rico women came out ahead of men in the median earnings column in the annual report, having pulled in front for the first time in the 2008 American Community Survey.
In fact, women also outpaced men in earnings growth in Puerto Rico, posting a substantially bigger gain in median income last year.
Women raked in median earnings of $20,563 last year, up from $20,058 in 2008 for a gain of more than $500. Full-time, year-round male workers pulled down median earnings of $19,906 in 2009, a modest increase of just $38 over the $19,868 the year before.
Puerto Rico women and men trailed far behind their worker counterparts in all 50 states in terms of median income.
Still, the island’s women came much closer to the lowest state, West Virginia, where the median earnings for women was $27,855 in 2009. The national average was $35,549.
The state with the lowest median earnings for men last year was Arkansas at $36,465. The national average for men was $45,485.
Only women in Washington, D.C. earned more than the national average median salary for men. The median for women in the nation’s capital was $54,698 in 2009, compared with $61,993 for men.
Economist Sergio Marxuach said there are various potential explanations for the gender-based earnings trends in Puerto Rico including different stakes in education, labor participation, the informal economy and substantial shifts in Puerto Rico’s labor market. He cautioned that more research is needed to fully understand what is going on.
“Women in Puerto Rico have higher school attainment rates relative to men,” said Marxuach, policy director at the Center for the New Economy think tank.
The American Community Survey showed that 18.9 percent of women age 25 and older in Puerto Rico had a bachelor’s degree in 2009, while only 12.9 percent of men in that age group had a bachelor’s degree. Furthermore, 5.8 percent of women age 25 and older had a graduate or professional degree while only 4.7 percent of men in that age group had such a degree, Marxuach pointed out.
Gaps between the number of island men and women either working or seeking employment may also be a factor.
The male labor force participation rate in Puerto Rico is much lower than the male labor force participation rate in the U.S., while the participation rate for females in Puerto Rico is close to the female labor participation rate in the U.S., Marxuach said.
Less measurable differences are also in the mix.
“Relatively more men than women may be active in the informal economy (both legal and illegal) in Puerto Rico,” Marxuach said.
Finally, changes in the type of work available in Puerto Rico are likely to have an impact on the earnings data.
“The structure of the Puerto Rican labor market has changed substantially over the last 40 years as the importance of manufacturing has declined relative to the services sector,” Marxuach said. “The shift away from manufacturing toward services has reduced the demand for repetitive manual labor and put the sexes on a more equal footing.”
Top states by median earnings
The top 10 states for women by median earnings in 2009 were: Washington, D.C. ($54,698), Massachusetts ($45,062), Maryland ($44,937), New Jersey ($44,166), Connecticut, ($43,900), New York ($40,584), California ($40,019), Virginia ($39,354), Rhode Island ($39,248) and Alaska ($39,017).
The top 10 areas for men by median earnings in 2009 were: Washington, D.C. ($61,993), Connecticut ($59,387), New Jersey ($57,738), Massachusetts ($56,902), Maryland ($55,116), Washington ($51,305), Alaska ($51,019), New Hampshire ($50,837), Virginia ($50,236) and Rhode Island ($49,439).