The Gender Pay Gap in 25 Major Cities

April 02, 2019


Note: This page was originally published in December 2017. It has been updated to reflect new data as of September 2018.

No matter how you break down the gender pay gap numbers — by state, age, educationrace, or occupation — the gap is substantial. And cities are not immune to this pervasive problem, as our new analysis indicates.

AAUW has created a tool for those seeking to understand and reduce the gender pay gap across the United States: a breakdown of the 2017 pay gap in 25 major metropolitan areas. This new analysis examines the pay gap between men and women working full time, year-round, and includes information about disparities based on race and ethnicity.

The gender pay gaps in major U.S. metropolitan areas seem similar to the national gender pay ratio of 80 percent, though on average urban areas have slightly smaller gaps and rural areas have larger gaps. The metropolitan area with the smallest gender pay gap in this study is Los Angeles, with a gender pay ratio of 91 percent, and the largest is Detroit, with a ratio of 75 percent. The largest dollar gap between men’s and women’s median annual earnings is in Seattle, where men were paid $15,000 more annually than women (with a women-to-men pay ratio of 78 percent).

When comparing the full-time year-round pay received by women of different races and ethnicities to the full-time year-round pay received by white men in 2017, the gaps vary much more widely between racial groups in some metropolitan areas than do the national averages. Houston and Washington, DC, for example, show the largest gaps between a racial/ethnic group of women and white men in a metropolitan area, where Latinas’ median earnings were only 37 percent of white men’s earnings (much lower than the national ratio between Latinas and white men, 53 percent).

These new city-based data supplement AAUW’s existing research on the gender pay gap, headlined by our report The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, which breaks down data to help explain the factors contributing to the gender pay gap. Our state road maps lay out the legislative actions necessary to achieve equal pay on the state level, and our reporting delves deeper into specific pay gaps, including the pay ratios for Latinas (53 percent), Asian women (85 percent), black women (61 percent), American Indian or Alaska Native (AIAN) women (58 percent), and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander (NHPI) women (62 percent).

What Is a “Metropolitan Area”?

The metropolitan statistical areas in this breakdown all have populations of at least 2 million — meaning that they are well represented in such government surveys as the American Community Survey, the data source for this analysis — and these areas were selected to represent a balanced geographic sample across the United States. Each metropolitan statistical area consists of the county or counties containing a principal city or cities as well as adjacent counties with strong social and economic ties. In some cases, metropolitan statistical areas are also considered to be part of a larger combined statistical area, but this breakdown compares metropolitan statistical areas regardless of whether they are part of a combined statistical area. For instance, the Washington, D.C., metropolitan statistical area consists of the District of Columbia as well as some surrounding counties of Maryland and Virginia and one county in West Virginia — which is why the number presented here is slightly different from the overall pay ratio AAUW has previously reported for the District of Columbia alone. In this list the Washington, D.C., metropolitan statistical area is distinct from the Baltimore metropolitan statistical area even though the two areas can also be analyzed together as a combined statistical area. The constituent counties within a metropolitan statistical area or a combined statistical area are determined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget using data from the Census Bureau. See below under “Counties Included” for a list of the areas included in AAUW’s breakdown and their constituent parts.

Note: Sample sizes for American Indian or Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander women were too small to report accurate ratios. For more information on how these numbers are calculated and answers to other common questions, please see our Frequently Asked Questions about the Gender Pay Gap.

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