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Equity economics

New York’s reputation as a high-tax state is well-deserved, and it surely is one reason some residents relocate and other people do not move here. But a state’s economic environment cannot be reduced to a single factor.

Fortunately, New York compares favorably with many other states in a number of ways. A new study by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights one such metric: women’s earnings.

The study, released a few weeks ago, shows that only three other states have a narrower pay gap between women and men. In 2015, full-time female wage and salary workers in New York had median usual weekly earnings of $816, or 86.9 percent of the $939 median usual weekly earnings of their male counterparts, BLS researchers found.

The only states with a smaller gender gap in income were Hawaii, at 87.9 percent; Florida, 87.4 percent; and Delaware, 87.3 percent.

Since 1997, New York’s ratio of women’s to men’s earnings has ranged from a low of 78.5 percent in 2000 to the high point reached in 2015. The trend since 2012 has been upward, with a 2.3 percentage point gain in the most recent year’s data.

The BLS researchers caution that the differences among the states are due, in part, to variations in occupations and industries. The study also did not control for factors such as age composition and educational attainment—all of which “can be significant in explaining earnings differences.”

Other studies, however, have produced much the same results. One from PayScale, an online salary database, shows New York outperforming most other states, especially when comparing women and men in similar jobs. The Empire State’s gap in comparable jobs is only 1.1 percent, versus a 2.4 percent difference nationally. (In two states—Vermont and Rhode Island—women outearn men in similar jobs.)

Pay equality is a matter of fairness, but that’s not all. U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios has argued that advancing women’s equality could deliver a boost to U.S. GDP of up to $4.3 trillion in the next decade.

New York clearly is moving in the right direction on women’s earnings; its progress should continue.

1/6/2017 (c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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