Some states treat their creative women better than others

Yesterday we learned that while women make up the majority of the creative class, a substantial earnings gap persists.  Today we will look at which states are the best for creative class women to work in. To get us started, the map below charts women’s share of the creative class across the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The top of the list may seem surprising. Mississippi takes first place, where women comprise 58.9 percent of the creative class. It is followed by Maine (58.7 percent), Arkansas (58.2 percent), Virginia, (57.7 percent) and Louisiana (57.4 percent). At the bottom of the list are Utah (45.7 percent), Colorado (50.3 percent), West Virginia (50.5 percent), California (50.7 percent) and Vermont (51.4 percent).

This next map charts the pattern for wages. The District of Columbia tops the list for wages of creative class women ($70,395), followed by New Mexico ($59,476), Maryland ($58,848), California ($56,876) and Connecticut ($56,803). In total, ten states have average wages above $50,000, including Nevada ($54,630), Massachusetts ($53,645), Vermont ($52,757), Delaware ($50,929) and New Hampshire ($50,679). At the bottom of the list are Montana ($34,169) and North Dakota ($34,448). South Dakota ($35,018), Idaho ($35,286), Utah ($35,872), and Wyoming ($35,874) are also states where creative class women earn roughly half of what they do in Washington. The ratio between the bottom and top performer is approximately the same for all women and for creative class women, with the top earning approximately twice as much as the bottom.

We now turn to women's share of total creative class wages. South Dakota tops the list, where women’s wages comprise 46.6 percent of total wages, followed by Maine (46.3 percent). Washington and Virginia both have shares above 45 percent, followed by the District of Columbia (44.7 percent) and North Dakota (44.1 percent). At the bottom of the list is Utah, the only state where women get less than 30 percent of total wages. Connecticut is next with 36.3 percent, followed by Idaho (36.7 percent), Colorado (37.3 percent) and Texas (37.7 percent).

The women’s share of total creative class wages exceeds 40 percent in 31 of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia. Compare that to just four states where the share of total wages for all women (as opposed to just creative class women) exceeds 40 percent.

We also chart what I call the "Creative Class Location Premium" by state. This is the amount of earnings that can be attributed to working in a specific state after controlling for education, hours worked, and skill. On this measure, Washington, D.C., again tops the list with a creative class location premium of more than $20,000 per year. It is followed by New Mexico ($16,115), California ($13,910), Maryland  ($13,845) and Connecticut ($13,400). Overall, 27 of the 50 states including D.C. have positive creative class location premiums. The state with the worst location premium is Montana (-$7,762), followed by North and South Dakota (-$6,993 and -$6,759 respectively) and Washington (-$5,035).  

But what are the best states for creative class women overall? To get at this, we chart the "Creative Class Women’s Earnings Index," which, like the "Women’s Earning Index," is based on four factors: women as a share of the creative class workforce, the average wage level for women, women’s share of total wages, and the location premium for women.

Once again, Washington, D.C., tops the list with an index score of .82. It is both the best place for women in general and for creative class women specifically. Nevada comes in second with an index score of .78. Maryland is third (.69), Rhode Island fourth (.67) and Alaska suddenly leaps to fifth place (.66). Interestingly, four states which scored high on the overall "Women’s Earning Index"—Massachusetts, New Mexico, Washington and Connecticut—dropped significantly on the "Creative Class Women’s Earning Index." Utah comes up last for creative class women with an index score of.12. Idaho (.15), Montana (.27) and Kansas (.32) round out the bottom of the list.

So what does it all mean? For creative class women and for women in the workforce overall, the evidence remains mixed. Women have become a significant force in the American economy, and comprise the majority of creative class jobs in every state but one. But even when we control for education, skills, and hours worked, men out-earn women by an average of $10,600 overall and $23,700 in creative class jobs.

So to bring us back to the key question: is the knowledge economy tilting the playing field toward women? Our answer is a strongly qualified yes. Yes, in that women make up a large and growing share of creative class jobs. Yes, in that women are concentrated in occupations like education and health-care, which are less exposed to adverse economic cycles. And yes, when you consider that women make up the majority of students enrolled in undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs. But we remain struck by the significant earnings gaps that persist for creative class jobs as well as for jobs across the board. Men earn significantly more than women no matter how you slice it – across the economy as a whole, by major class, or by specific creative class occupation. And these earnings gaps remain even when we control for education, skill, and effort. While the economic playing field is tilting toward women, it has a long way to go before we can call it equal.

About the Author

Richard Florida
Richard Florida

Richard Florida is a co-founder and editor at large of CityLab and a senior editor at The Atlantic. He is the director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto and Global Research Professor at New York University.

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