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Gender pay gap: Top 5 best and worst states

The pay gap between men and women has steadily narrowed during the past few decades. Women earned 77 cents for every dollar men earned in 2011, compared with 59 cents in 1963. Here is a look at states with biggest and smallest gender pay gaps today.

47 to 51. The bottom five

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Four of the five lowest ranked states – Wyoming (No. 51), Louisiana (50), West Virginia (48), and North Dakota (47) – have similar economic characteristics contributing to large pay discrepancies: They each are driven by male-dominated industries such as mining, oil production, and manufacturing.

“The fact is, we still have a workforce that is segregated by sex,” says Hill. In order to close the wage gap, industries need to be become more gender integrated, she says. 

Wyoming ranks lowest in gender pay equity – women’s earnings are 67 percent of men’s earnings, which is 10 percentage points lower than the national average, 77 percent. Men make up almost 90 percent of the energy workforce in Wyoming, which includes mining, oil, and natural gas extraction, said Wenlin Liu, senior economist for the Wyoming State Economic Analysis Division, in an interview with the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle.

Louisiana is the third-largest producer of oil and oil refining, the second-largest producer of natural gas, and one of the largest commercial fishing industries in the US, according to the state’s Department of Administration. It ranks second to last with women making 69 percent of what men make – $31,844 a year compared with $46,313.

One of West Virginia’s largest industry is coal mining, which likely accounts for its 48th-place ranking. Women made $29,688 to men’s $42,124 – 70 percent. Likewise, North Dakota (47th), is dominated by mining and manufacturing. The 73 percent earnings ratio there results from women earning $32,462 to men’s $44,660.

In Utah (No. 49), different factors explain why women make 69 percent of what men do: low college graduation rates and occupational choice.

“Utah women are less likely to enter occupations that pay well – particularly in those that require math and science background –than U.S. women (who make their own share of low-paying job choices),” writes regional economist Lecia Parks Langston on the Utah Department of Workforce Services website.

Ms. Langston lists other factors, including more career interruptions, less on-the-job experience, and fewer hours worked. Women made $32,843 versus $47,573 for men in 2011.

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