Women’s earnings in the U.S. make up about 81% of men’s, according to Census Bureau data from the past several years. Though this figure has steadily grown over the course of decades, researchers predict the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic could set back pay for women. Bureau of Labor Statistics data unequivocally shows that the COVID-19 crisis has had a disproportionate impact on women’s participation in the labor force and unemployment, and many analysts theorize this will carry over to women’s earnings.
In this study, SmartAsset uncovered the best cities for women’s pay leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic. We compared the 150 largest U.S. across four metrics: median earnings for women, growth in women’s earnings, women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings and the change in women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings. Both metrics that examine changes over time consider the years 2017 and 2019. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.
This is SmartAsset’s third annual study on the best cities for women’s pay. Check out the 2020 version here.
- Midwestern cities lag. Among the top 10 cities for women’s pay, the Northeast, South and West are all represented. There are two cities in the Northeast, three in the South and five in the West. The first Midwest city in our ranking, however, is Overland Park, Kansas, coming in at 19th. Though both Chicago, Illinois and Cleveland, Ohio squeeze into our top 25, women’s earnings fall significantly short of men’s. The pay gap in all three Midwest cities in our top 25 is greater than 10%.
- Median earnings for women do not equal or surpass men’s earnings in any city in our study. Last year, we found that median earnings for women were equal to or exceed median earnings for men in four cities: Yonkers, New York; Spring Valley, Nevada; Tempe, Arizona and Aurora, Colorado. Though Sacramento, California has the highest women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings this year, it is still at 99.05%.
1. Raleigh, NC
Raleigh, North Carolina ranks in the top quartile of cities for all four metrics in our study. It has the 32nd-highest median earnings for women (about $50,300), and women’s earnings make up the 10th-highest percentage of men’s earnings (almost 96%). Between 2017 and 2019, Raleigh had the sixth-greatest increase in earnings for women (18.62%) and fourth-highest increase in women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings (13.05%).
2. Tacoma, WA
Women in Tacoma, Washington earn roughly $49,700 on average. Though this figure does not fall in the top fifth of the study, Tacoma ranks within the top 15 cities for our other three metrics: Women’s earnings increased by more than 17% between 2017 and 2019 and women’s earnings make up about 93% of men’s earnings – almost 10% higher than in 2017.
3. Huntington Beach, CA
Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings increased the most in Huntington Beach, California compared to any other city in our study. Census Bureau data shows that the gender pay gap closed by almost 16% between 2017 and 2019. Huntington Beach also has the 12th-highest median earnings for women, at $61,148.
4. Sacramento, CA
Sacramento, California has the smallest pay gap of all 150 cities in our study. In 2019, women’s earnings made up 99.05% of men’s earnings. This figure is 7.27% higher than it was 2017. As a gross figure, median earnings for women in Sacramento are about $50,400, 31st-highest of the cities we considered.
5. Jersey City, NJ
Earnings for women in Jersey City, New Jersey grew by the second-highest rate of any city in the study. Between 2017 and 2019, median women’s earnings increased by 22.82%. As a result of that growth, 2019 median earnings for women in Jersey City are the seventh-highest overall, at $62,530.
6. St. Petersburg, FL
Women’s earnings in St. Petersburg, Florida have grown substantially over the past couple years. In 2017, median earnings for women were less than $40,400, and in 2019, they were greater than $45,700 – marking a two-year growth of 13.39%, 19th-highest in our study. Relative to men, women in St. Petersburg earn about 8% less on average.
7. Honolulu, HI
Honolulu, Hawaii ranks in the top third of our study for all four metrics we considered. It has the 38th-highest median earnings for women (about $47,700) and ranks 45th-best for women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings (88.51%). Between 2017 and 2019, the capital of Hawaii had the 20th-greatest increase in women’s earnings (13.24%) and 19th-largest change in women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings (almost 7%).
8. Portland, OR
From 2017 to 2019, median earnings for women in Portland, Oregon increased by 18.40% – the third-highest increase of any city in our top 10 and seventh-largest overall. With that increase, Portland has the 17th-highest 2019 median earnings for women, at more than $55,200.
9. Baltimore, MD
Baltimore, Maryland ranks in the top 20 cities of the study for two metrics: women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings (92.31%) and growth in women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings (6.47%). Census Bureau data from 2019 shows that median earnings for women in Baltimore are about $47,500, 39th-highest across all 150 cities in our study.
10. Boston, MA
Boston, Massachusetts rounds out our list of the top cities for women’s pay. Women’s earnings in Boston are the 11th-highest in our study, at roughly $61,700. Boston additionally ranks in the top 25 for women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings (91.88%) and the two-year growth in women’s earnings (12.23%).
Data and Methodology
To find the best cities for women’s pay, SmartAsset looked at the 150 largest cities in the U.S. We compared those cities across four metrics:
- Median earnings for women. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
- Women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings. This is median earnings for women divided by median earnings for men. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
- Growth in women’s earnings. This is the change in median earnings for women from 2017 to 2019. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 and 2019 1-year American Community Surveys.
- Growth in women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings. This is the difference between women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s earnings in 2017 and 2019. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2017 and 2019 1-year American Community Surveys.
In all cases, earnings figures are for full-time workers 16 years and older.
To determine our final list, we ranked each city in every metric, giving a full weighting to all metrics. We then found each city’s average ranking and used the average to determine a final score. The city with the best average ranking received a score of 100. The city with the lowest average ranking received a score of 0.
Tips for Maximizing Your Paycheck
- Contribute to a 401(k). A 401(k) is an employer-sponsored defined contribution plan in which you divert pre-tax portions of your monthly paycheck into a retirement account. Some employers will also match your 401(k) contributions up to a certain percentage of your salary, meaning that if you chose not to contribute, you are essentially leaving money on the table. Take a look at our 401(k) calculator to see how you and your employer’s contributions can add up.
- Consider professional help. A financial advisor can help you make smarter financial decisions to be in better control of your money. Finding the right financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
Questions about our study? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: ©iStock.com/AndreyPopov