Study: Women in Big Cities Bridging Income Gap

A recent analysis of census data by Dr. Andrew Beveridge shows that median wages for women have surged ahead of those for men in cities like New York and Los Angeles. Beveridge talks with Lynn Neary.

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LYNN NEARY, host:

The income gap between American men and women long documented by the U.S. Census Bureau may be closing. But thus far, the only women benefiting are young and working at jobs in big cities.

Dr. Andrew Beveridge is a demographer and the chair of the sociology department at Queens College. He first published his analysis in New York's Gotham Gazette. Dr. Beveridge joins us now from our New York Bureau.

Good to have you with us, Dr. Beveridge.

Dr. ANDREW BEVERIDGE (Demographer; Chair, Sociology Department, Queens College): Yeah, thank you, Lynn.

NEARY: Now you've analyzed recent Census data. What exactly did you find?

Dr. BEVERIDGE: Well, what I found was, in New York City and then in a number of other major cities, that if you take all of the people who are 21 to 30, and you look at those who are working full time, you take those people and you compare them - men and women - it turns out that women are making more money than men in New York and a bunch of other cities.

NEARY: Why is this? Did you find an explanation for it?

Dr. BEVERIDGE: Well, I have a hypothesis that I think is fairly strongly supported. It turns out that in New York - and I haven't really looked at it that carefully in some of the other cities - women are much better educated than men in that age group. In other words, there are many more of them are college grads. Many or few of them are high school dropouts. And so I think that what has happened is that women have really moved ahead educationally. And by virtue of that fact have been able to move ahead occupationally.

NEARY: And more of these educated women are tending to live in big cities. Is there an explanation for that?

Dr. BEVERIDGE: Well, I think that there probably is an explanation for that. I think part of it is of that women who are ambitious, who want to pursue a career, places like New York or L.A. or Boston are probably reasonable places to go because there's a lot larger range of occupations and occupational opportunities than there would be in a smaller city, say, such as Peoria, Illinois. So I think that that's one of the reasons that, you know, that sort of like a pull factor that women may be going to these cities.

NEARY: Interesting, though, because you would think that educated men would also be flocking to large cities in the sense that the challenging jobs are there, the competition is there as well.

Dr. BEVERIDGE: No. I think that's true, but I think that the men who, let's say, in the New York City metropolitan area, the men who are tier are not keeping up with women. And so the - you know, the local group, let's say, are not doing as well as women. And then the women coming in are kind of doing even better. I mean, this is not to say that, for example, in the law - legal profession or some other profession, that men might not be making more than women. It's just that there's so many of the educated women in a place like New York, even if they're not making exactly as much in specific fields, if you take them all together, they make more.

NEARY: Hmm. But is there any way of knowing if this is a trend that might continue as women get older?

Dr. BEVERIDGE: I think that there is some indication that it is a trend. Because, you know, for the very same reason that it is due to the educational level because the cohort ahead of this group, the 30-somethings, are not making as much money as men. So part of that may be that women are, you know, pulling out of the labor market and all that.

On the other hand, this group…

NEARY: And just to be clear, you're talking about women pulling out of the labor market because they might get married, have children, that sort of thing.

Dr. BEVERRIDGE: Yeah. I mean, but, you know, but this group may actually be a harbinger of things to come. And even if there's some slumpage(ph), let's say, they stay somewhat ahead, then you'll have another cohort coming along that will be probably outpacing men. So over time, this actually may be a harbinger of a real trend.

NEARY: Dr. Andrew Beveridge is a demographer and the chair of the sociology department at Queens College. Thanks for being with us, Dr. Beveridge.

Dr. BEVERIDGE: Thank you, Lynn.

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