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Ask A Researcher

April 2012

Minnesota has some gender issues

Allison Churilla, Minnesota Compass

Allison Churilla

Meet Allison Churilla, the newest member of the Compass research team. Allison specializes in data and statistics related to demographics, labor and economic development, immigration, gender, and other topic areas.

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.

Are we seeing progress on measures of gender disparity?

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.

Which areas need improvement?

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…isn’t that a women’s issue?

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.

Allison works on the Minnesota Compass project, where she uses demographic, economic, and social indicators to describe notable trends in the state. Her research provides an empirical perspective on points of progress and challenge for people in Minnesota, with implications for how to sustain and improve quality of life. Allison joined Wilder Research in the spring of 2012. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Luther College and her master's degree in Park, Recreation, and Tourism Resources from Michigan State University. Allison is currently a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of New Hampshire. Her dissertation research examines the influence of the foreign-born workforce on the gender wage gap in metropolitan labor markets.


Featured trend

Percentage of Minnesota adults age 25 or older with a bachelor's degree

Educational attainment among Minnesota’s adults continues to rise

Minnesota ranks among the 10 states with the highest shares of college-educated adults. Today, 37% of adults in Minnesota have a bachelor’s degree or higher, an increase of almost 10 percentage points since 2000.

See our educational attainment key measure for more on this topic.


Data Update


There are 20 counties in Minnesota in which at least one in five young children (age 0-5) lives in poverty

Foreign-born populations continue to grow as a proportion of the overall population, making up 9% of Minnesota’s population, up from 7% in 2010.

Approximately 38% of householders of color pay too much for housing.

The ratio of retirement-age adults (65+) to working-age adults (16-64) increased in 60 Minnesota cities, signaling disproportionate growth in the number of older adults compared to the working-age population.

Between 2016 and 2019, the share of Minnesota students who report being highly engaged in enrichment activities fell from 65% to nearly 60%.