Minnesota has some gender issues
Allison Churilla, Minnesota Compass
The gender wage gap is one of the most frequently cited social indicators of gender disparity. According to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a full-time working woman in Minnesota earns, on average, 83 cents for every dollar earned by a man. This represents positive change since 2003, when the gender wage gap hit a low of 74 cents.
Reduction in the gap between women’s and men’s earnings is noteworthy and often leads to the conclusion that women are doing better. Indeed, on average, women’s earnings have increased over the previous several decades. But some of the most substantial reductions in the wage gap have come about because men’s earnings stagnated or declined, especially in recent years. As a result, the gender wage gap only gives a partial picture of gender disparity in the state.
Educational attainment is one area of notable improvement in the state. Gender disparities have all but disappeared on some educational measures. The share of women and men in the state with a bachelor’s degree has increased over the past decade. Today, equal shares of both sexes – about 32 percent – have bachelor’s degrees or higher. These figures suggest that, statewide, both women and men are benefitting from the state’s well-known emphasis on education.
Employment is another area where Minnesota has seen some progress. The gap between the share of men and women employed in Minnesota labor markets has narrowed substantially over the last several decades. This is the result of two simultaneous trends: the proportion of women participating in the workforce has, by and large, increased, while the proportion of men participating has declined. Shares of males and females working have both dipped since 2008, nearly closing the gender gap on this measure. A report from the Carsey Institute notes that unemployment rose for nearly all groups of workers during this period, but that male workers were particularly hard hit by this rise in unemployment during the Great Recession.
While educational attainment is one area of improvement in the state, gender differences remain pronounced on other educational measures. A greater share of girls than boys meet state standards of 3rd grade reading, but a greater share of boys than girls meet state standards of 11th grade math. These gender differences in particular subject areas, already apparent in childhood and adolescence, may have implications for educational choices and occupational paths well after high school.
Poverty is another area where gender disparities persist. There is a persistent gap in poverty by gender, with females outnumbering men in poverty for the last several decades. Poverty rates were lowest for both sexes at the turn of the century: 6% of males and 8% of females were below the federal poverty threshold in 1999. Since then, the number and share of individuals in poverty have nearly doubled. Today, 13 percent of females in Minnesota are poor, compared to 11 percent of males.
Gender disparities are bad for everyone. Women and girls have traditionally been the focus of school, workplace, and policy efforts to improve their economic and social positioning. But several of the trends outlined here suggest that men and boys are lagging behind on some important indicators of well-being.