10/16/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Obama Campaign Target: Blue-Collar Women Face Worst Gender Gap

A key battleground demographic for Obama is blue-collar women. By concentrating on the pay equity issue, Obama is going after women who are not only in blue-collar families, but who themselves are blue-collar workers.

Obama should find fertile ground for this message. Except among the highest earners, women with only a high school degrees face the highest gender gaps compared with men at their own education level. That means blue-collar women might be receptive to the gender-equity message.

Note: Calculated from 2000 Census data.

Almost five million women work full-time, year-round in blue collar jobs where the gender pay gap is bigger than the national average of 74% (for median earnings in 2000). That's where you'll find more than a million women working as retail sales workers and cashiers, who earn just 65% and 71% of men's in their fields; half a million production workers and their immediate supervisors, who bring in 70% of their male counterparts' earnings; and so on.

The advances made by women in the 1970s and 1980s were concentrated in those occupations for which educational credentials opened doors (like law, medicine, real estate and administration), and where affirmative actions and political pressure by active professionals created integration and momentum for job equity. Among blue collar workers the gender power has not been as great. Big pay gaps and higher levels of segregation show the result.

If Obama wants to motivate women on pay equity issues, women in blue collar jobs may be ready to hear that message.