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The Atlantic: WA Among Better States for Working Women

By Erica C. Barnett November 1, 2011

With women now holding the majority of jobs in the US workforce, you'd think it'd be a great time to be a working woman in America, right?

Not so fast: As Richard Florida demonstrates (with maps!) in The Atlantic, across most of the nation, women make substantially less than men, typically earning between 35 and 40 percent of total wages despite holding the majority of the jobs. That, of course, is because women get paid less for doing the same work as men, and because women are overrepresented in low-paying fields like retail, child care, and domestic work.

In Washington State, where women make up more than half of the labor force, working women fare better than in much of the nation. Sure, the average wage for women is only around $28,000 a year. However, women's share of total wages here is the second-highest in the country, at 41.3 percent (after Washington, DC, where women generate 45.3 percent of all wages).

Additionally, Washington State has a positive "location premium"---Florida's term for "the amount of earnings that can be attributed to working in a specific state after controlling for education, hours worked, and skill." Thirty-eight states have negative location premiums, meaning that working in those states means earning less no matter what your background and skill level. Finally, Florida came up with a metric called the "Women's earning index" that combines all those factors. By that measure, Washington State comes in ninth---not bad.

On the other hand, while Washington State has the nation's sixth-highest level of female members of the "creative class" employees---people who doo creative work for a living, broadly speaking, including everything from educators to graphic designers to journalists---women in the state's creative class earn less on average (around $38,000) than 36 other states, and living in the state carries a negative location premium (wages lost irrespective of education, skill, and hours worked) of more than $5,000.
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