Young Men And Women In Tampa Bay Earn Nearly The Same Pay. That’s A Good Start | Editorial

This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.

Two pennies on the dollar. That’s how close the gender pay gap is to closing among younger workers in the Tampa Bay area, where a woman under 30 earns 98 cents for every dollar a man is paid. In the Miami metro area, it’s within a penny. And in Gainesville it’s switched; women under 30 earn $1.10 for every dollar a man makes. In fact, in only three metro areas in America do women under 30 do better comparatively than in Gainesville.

That good news comes from a Pew Research Center analysis of 2019 Census Bureau data. In 22 of 250 U.S. metro areas, women under 30 earn as much or more than men. In another 107 metros, women earned 90 percent or more of what men did. The analysis looked at full-time workers between 16 and 29 and measured the median wage — half make more, half make less — in each metro area.

The study didn’t look at educational levels, wage parity within a field or any other finer-grained measurements. It didn’t distinguish between a teenager working at Target full time or a 29-year-old woman striving to make partner at a large law firm. Studies of men and women with the same education levels and experience who do the same jobs often find little or no pay gap. The overall gap appears for a host of other reasons, including that more women end up in lower-paying fields, fewer women rise into high-paying upper management positions, and of course, the well-established financial penalty that women take for having children.

You could consider the Pew study’s lack of specificity a weakness, or perhaps it’s a strength. While it doesn’t show if there are pay gaps within a particular field like construction, teaching or health care, it does demonstrate that across all jobs, there is no longer a yawning pay canyon, at least in many Florida cities. Indeed, Ocala and Daytona Beach are the only Florida metros where younger women failed to make within 10 percent of what men did.

So in an era still dealing with #MeToo and sex and gender discrimination in the workplace, growing wage parity among younger workers is great news. But there’s plenty of middling news — and some plain troubling — as well. First, while the earnings gap may not be great, neither are the earnings themselves. Nearly all of the Florida cities fell in the bottom half of annual median wages among the 250 metro areas that Pew studied. In Tampa Bay, for example, men under 30 outearn women by only $544 a year. But men only make a median of $30,544 a year and women, $30,000. For both men and women, that’s less than $15 an hour. Neither a younger man nor a younger woman is going to be buying a house or fully loading up a 401(k) on those median wages.

And the Pew study points out that earnings parity are closest in the years after workers start working full time. For example, women under 30 across the nation earn about 93 cents on the dollar compared with men. A generation ago, in 2000, women in that age group earned 88 percent of a man’s wage, so that’s progress. But by 2019, when this cohort was now 35 to 48 years old, women were earning only 80 percent of men in the same age range. In other words, while younger women are doing better than they were at the turn of the century, there is no assurance that the trend will continue as they get older, if past is prologue. But, with a much higher percentage of women graduating from college and entering higher-paying professions like medicine and law, there’s reason to believe the gap will continue to close even as these workers enter middle age.

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Pay parity is only fair. But women should not be in danger of aging out of it. It’s a good start to see the pay gap closing for those under 30. But it’s just that, a start.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.

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