We know who runs the world, but that doesn’t often translate into equal pay and formal power. Southern women’s economic standing varies, of course, by geography, occupation, race and ethnicity, and educational attainment level. Overall, the South has lower economic mobility and economic security than the rest of the nation, and women in many Southern states are more likely to be struggling economically than men.
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research is building out a great state-level data resource, the Status of Women in the States. They recently released employment and earnings data and gave each state a grade and rank based on a composite index that includes:
- how much women earn
- how much full-time, year-round working women earn compared to full-time, year-round working men
- the labor force participation rate of women
- the share of women working in managerial and professional jobs.
The site includes other indicators like employment in low-wage work, employment in STEM fields, and other factors like incidence of depression. Only two Southern states, Virginia and North Carolina, rank in the top half of all states, and seven Southern states are in the bottom ten.
In seven of 13 Southern states, the gender wage gap is higher than in the US as a whole, and in nine of 13 states, it is closing at a slower rate than in the US as a whole. In the South, the gap is largest in Louisiana, where full-time, year-round working women earn 66.7 cents for every dollar a man working full-time, year-round earns. The gap is smallest in Florida, where women earn 85 cents for every dollar a man earns. If these gaps continue to close at current rates, only Texas and Florida will have equal pay by 2050, and West Virginia and Louisiana still won’t have it at the turn of the century.
Income is a significant determinant of a family’s economic stability and children’s mobility, and women working in low-wage jobs are less likely to have access to the types of benefits and supports that allow them to build wealth. As long as so many Southern women are struggling to make ends meet, we won’t be able to improve economic mobility in the South.