Saratoga County has largest pay gap between sexes in state

2018-01-10 | Albert Lea Tribune (Minn.)

Jan. 10--Women working in Saratoga County make an average $18,539 less than their male counterparts. That's nearly twice the state's average pay gap of $9,558 and the national average of $10,669, 2016 U.S. Census figures reveal.

The 2016 census figures, which look at wages for year-round workers ages 16 and older, also show that Saratoga County ranks No. 1 in the state for biggest earnings gap, leading other large earning chasm counties, Putnam ($17,017), Nassau ($16,723), Richmond (Staten Island at $14,843) and Suffolk ($16,078). New York City's pay gap is $12,137.

"This is actually no surprise," said Catherine White Berheide, a sociology professor at Skidmore College who teaches classes on the pay gaps between white men and women, minorities and immigrants. "The reason Saratoga is high nationally is because the higher an average income is, the higher the pay gap."

The information was released in a nationwide study by the data-compiling service Pansop, which uses census numbers to conclude that Saratoga County also ranks number 83 out of 3,007 counties for pay gaps nationwide. In 2016, the average median income for a woman in Saratoga County was $31,551. For a man, it was $50,090.

Berheide said women need more education than a man to rank and be paid equally.

"They have to be one level higher than their male counterpart," she said. "For example, a woman with an associate degree will be equal with a man with a high school diploma. It goes up from there."

The pay gaps between men and women living in Albany, Rensselaer and Schenectady counties, census figures show, are closer to state averages and below the national average. Albany's gap is $7,459, Rensselaer's comes in at $8,983, with Schenectady's tilting higher at $9,056. Women in Albany County earn an average of $31,360; in Rensselaer, $31,527; and in Schenectady, $27,757. Men in Albany County earn $38,819; in Rensselaer, $40,510 and in Schenectady, $36,813.

Nationally women earn $26,250 compared to $36,919 for men. In New York state, median income is $30,906 for women and $40,464 for men.

"The labor force favors elite, well-educated men," Berheide said. "They are rewarded with higher increases in pay and promotions. Men also dominate higher-paying fields, for example, STEM jobs like those at GlobalFoundries. This depresses women's wages. It's occupational segregation."

Berheide also said the career segregation is clear in health care where men are generally doctors and women nurses. When women are doctors, she said, they often chose lowering paying fields such as pediatrics and primary care. The social implications, she said, are huge.

"Any household headed by a woman will have a lower income," she said. "This affects children. The best thing we can do for children in poverty is educate women."

Maggie Fronk, executive director of Wellspring, a nonprofit that supports victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence, has seen how the income gap plays out in homes throughout the county.

"It's a true concern," Fronk said. "It's a huge obstacle for women. They will stay in an abusive relationship to have a roof over their heads and food on the table for their children because they can't earn the same. They struggle to survive. It's really a challenge."

Fronk, whose organization provides rental assistance for victims, points to another study, one from the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council, that shows 4.2 percent of families live in poverty in Saratoga County. Of that 4.2 percent, 57.94 percent of female head of households in the county live in poverty. That compares with 12.34 percent of male head of households.

"That's a huge percentage living in poverty when the county's family poverty rate is 4.2 percent," Fronk said.

Kevin Pryor, an analyst with Pansop, doesn't see a change coming in 2018, but he has found that women's pay is increasing at a faster pace than men's, 11.3 percent versus 8.6 percent.

"It is fair to predict that the 2017 data will look similar to last year's numbers," Pryor said. "The long-term future of gender pay is difficult to accurately predict, however, past data can be used to see if any trends are occurring."

Julie Anderson, a senior research associate with the Institute for Women's Policy Research, said the problem of women making an average 80 cents per every dollar a man earns is compounded by wage stagnation. She said women saw a rapid boost in wages until about 2000 when women's wages stopped growing. Men's wages, she said, have been stagnant since the 1980s.

"If women's wages are going up and men's are staying the same, that's not that helpful," Anderson said. "It's is not a zero sum game. All wages need to go up."