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Equal Pay Day: AAUW Releases State By State Gender Wage Gap Rankings

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 04/17/2012 9:10 am Updated: 04/17/2012 10:39 am

Equal Pay

Even as we discuss how women are becoming “The Richer Sex,” American women still earn a lot less than their male counterparts -- 23 percent less on average. And pay equity may have a lot to do with one factor: location, location, location.

New data analysis from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) shows that the gulf between men and women’s wages differs greatly depending on the state where you live. The research, based on U.S. Census data, was released in time for Equal Pay Day, April 17th, which symbolically marks the number of extra days women would have to work into 2012 in order to earn, on average, as much as their male counterparts did in 2011.

The AAUW numbers show that Washington, D.C. has the narrowest wage gap nationally -- women earn 91 percent of what men do on average ($56,127 vs. $61,381). Wyoming came in last, with women earning just 64 percent of what their male counterparts do. On average women there earn $32,426, while men earn $50,854.

Some of the location-based differences can be explained by demographics. Fatima Goss Graves, vice president of education and employment at the National Women’s Law Center told MSNBC that the high percentage of federal jobs -- where the pay gaps are smaller generally than in the private sector -- may contribute to DC’s wage equity. On the other end of the spectrum, she said that Wyoming’s rural population and male-dominated industries such as coal mining, could account for part of the discrepancy.

Experts have long debated the root causes of the national wage gap, which has narrowed considerably since 1970 but stagnated in recent years. Some argue that the gap is about women’s life choices, including the choice to go into fields that generally receive less pay or work part-time in order to spend time at home to raise children. Certain industries have a larger wage gap than others -- on Wall Street women only earn 55 to 62 cents for every dollar that their male co-workers do. However, a 2007 AAUW report showed that even after controlling for college major, occupation, industry, sector, hours, work experience, education, GPA, age, race/ethnicity, religion, marital status and number of children a 5 percent gap between male and female earnings existed one year out of college. Ten years out of college, a 12 percent “unexplained difference” was found.

Here are the 10 states with the smallest wage gaps and the 10 states with the largest wage gaps (including Washington, D.C.). Where does your state fall?

LOOK: The 10 Best And 10 Worst States For Equal Pay

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  • Washington, D.C , 70 Points

    D.C.'s laws include six of seven possible policies to help new fathers and mothers by expanding FMLA access to workers in smaller businesses and those with less time on the job and offering a longer period of FMLA leave. D.C. also enacted the nation's second paid sick leave law.

  • Connecticut, 60 Points

    Connecticut's laws include five of seven possible policies to help new fathers and mothers. Among these policies, Connecticut enacted the nation's first statewide paid sick leave law.

  • New Jersey, 60 Points

    New Jersey created the nation's second family leave insurance program and also provides unpaid, job-protected leave to workers with less time on the job prior to needing leave.

  • California, 55 Points

    California created the nation's first family leave insurance law and permits workers to take unpaid family leave to care for the child of a domestic partner. California also guarantees "flexible" use of sick leave to allow workers who earn sick leave through their employers to use that leave to care for an ill child or spouse.

  • Maine, 45 Points

    Maine's family leave law applies to workers in smaller businesses and allows workers to take leave to care for the child of a domestic partner.

  • Oregon, 45 Points

    Oregon's family leave law applies to workers in smaller businesses and allows workers to take leave to care for the child of a domestic partner.

  • Washington, 45 Points

    Washington has taken the first step toward providing paid leave for new parents, and the state's unpaid family leave law allows workers to take leave to care for the child of a domestic partner. Washington also guarantees "flexible" use of sick leave to allow workers who earn sick leave through their employers to use that leave to care for an ill child or spouse.

  • Hawaii, 35 Points

    Hawaii's family leave law provides unpaid, job-protected leave to workers with less time on the job.

  • Wisconsin, 35 Points

    Wisconsin's family leave law provides unpaid, job-protected leave to workers with less time on the job.

  • Minnesota, 20 Points

    Minnesota's parental leave law provides unpaid, job-protected leave to workers in smaller businesses and those with less time on the job.

  • Vermont, 20 Points

    Vermont's family leave law provides unpaid, job-protected leave to workers in smaller businesses.

  • Maryland, 15 Points

    Maryland law guarantees "flexible" use of sick leave to allow workers who earn sick leave through their employers to use that leave to care for an ill child or spouse.

  • Rhode Island, 10 Points

    Rhode Island's family leave law provides unpaid, job-protected leave to workers with less time on the job.

  • Tennessee, 10 Points

    Tennessee's parental leave law allows new parents to take a longer period of leave than the federal FMLA provides.

  • Kentucky, 10 Points

    Kentucky allows adoptive parents in smaller businesses and with less time on the job to take leave to care for their adopted children.

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