The latest battle over the minimum wage continues to heat up, with critics of the current wage, including me, noting that the average fast food worker in America doesn't currently make enough money to rise above the poverty line. While that's bad enough, it gets even worse when you consider that the average fast food worker already brings home $8.94 an hour -- $1.69 more than the minimum wage. To put it in context, the federal minimum wage has been trending downward since 1968, and -- adjusted for inflation -- is now lower than it was in 1956.
That means that today's McDonald's employee is effectively making about a buck less an hour than a soda jerk brought home when Eisenhower was in the White House. And odds are, that worker probably isn't being offered full-time hours.
But it's not all bad news: internationally, American workers fare up pretty well. Taken at face value, their minimum wage comes in 12th in the world, ahead of Israel, South Korea, and some other industrialized countries. Granted, Australia pays its workers at least $16 per hour and Japan pays them $9.24, but -- in a global context at least, America is doing pretty well.
The numbers get even narrower when one considers purchasing power parity, or PPP. Basically a measure of the goods and services that a sum of money will purchase, PPP considers how far a dollar will go. In Australia, for example, PPP shifts the minimum wage from $16 to a more measured $9.77.
In a recent article, The Atlantic noted that, accounting for PPP, America's workers actually come in 10th place, behind Canada and New Zealand and ahead of Japan and Austria.
Then again, the average American worker spends four times as much on health care as the average Austrian -- and roughly seven times as much as the average Japanese worker. This expense, which isn't factored into PPP, can be heavy -- and even at times devastating. Still, there's the bright side: we're number 10.
Right behind New Zealand.
The Worst-Paying Cities for Women
Which 9 Nations Pay a Higher Minimum Wage Than the U.S.?
April 9 is Equal Pay Day, established in 1996 to highlight the earnings discrepancy between men and women in the United States. Across the country, women in full-time jobs make just 78.8 percent of what men in comparable positions make; Equal Pay Day marks how far into this year a woman would have to work to earn as much as a man did in 2012.
The wage gap varies depending on where you are in the country. Women in the Provo-Orem, Utah, metro area make just 61.6 percent of what men make; in Los Angeles, by contrast, they take home 91.4 percent of the pay of their male peers. To identify the cities that pay women the least, 24/7 Wall St. compared the median earnings for the past 12 months of both men and women who worked full-time in the country’s 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas, based on data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. We also reviewed employment composition by sector. All data was for 2011, the most recent period available.
These are the cities where the wage gap is widest.
Women's pay as pct. of men's: 73.1% Median income for men: $61,412 Median income for women: $44,879
Seattle is one of the West Coast's biggest tech hubs, with companies such as Microsoft and Amazon.com among its top employers. Few major metropolitan areas have a larger proportion of workers in tech jobs than Seattle. In those sectors, pay for women was closer to that of men than most, with the median income for women 86.6% of men's income. Still, the difference is not unsubstantial, with men earning $12,644 more than their female counterparts. In other sectors, the disparity was worse. For example, in management positions, median earnings for men exceeded the median earnings for women by more than $26,000.
Women's pay as pct. of men's: 72.9% Median income for men: $45,312 Median income for women: $33,048
As a state, Oklahoma's gender pay gap was wide. And in the state's second-largest metropolitan area, Tulsa, the gender pay gap was even worse. Barely 5% of Tulsa's 10,000 transportation workers were women. For those women, the median pay was just 56% of the men's pay. Nearly 10% of the region's full-time workers were in sales positions, with women accounting for 40% of those jobs. In 2011, men in sales positions earned a median of $22,155 more than their female counterparts, more than $5,000 greater than the national gap for such jobs.
Women's pay as pct. of men's: 72.1% Median income for men: $72,202 Median income for women: $52,063
The median income for women in Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk area was more than $20,000 less than the median income of men in 2011. Western Connecticut employs many people in financial services. In Stamford, both UBS and RBS banks employ thousands of people, and countless hedge funds are also situated in the region. Yet there was a profound gap in pay equity between men and women in business and financial operations, with women earning a median of just 54.8% of the men's pay. In some fields, however, there was no apparent pay gap. In architecture and engineering occupations, women working full time earned a median of $85,227, actually slightly larger than the median pay for men.
Women's pay as pct. of men's: 71.9% Median income for men: $47,031 Median income for women: $33,831
Known as the Air Capital of the World, Wichita's economy is based on aircraft manufacturers. Companies such as Cessna, Bombardier and Hawker Beechcraft have a large presence in the region and between them employ tens of thousands of workers. Nearly 10% of the metro area's economy is based on aircraft manufacturing and other types of production, with women accounting for 21.5% of those jobs. In 2011, women in manufacturing and production jobs earned a median of $28,471, while men earned a median of $46,804.
Women's pay as pct. of men's: 70.5% Median income for men: $50,908 Median income for women: $35,907
The median earnings of women in Colorado Springs was about $35,900 in 2011, some $15,000 lower than the median income of men. The two largest private employers in the Colorado Springs area as of the summer of 2011 were Memorial Health System and Penrose-St. Francis Health Services. While these employers provide work to many in the community, the pay gap in health services between men and women is significant. Women working in health diagnosing and as treating practitioners made just slightly more than half that of men in 2011, despite the fact that the sector is comprised of nearly 70% women. For health technologists and technicians, the gap was even more significant, with women earnings less than 35% of the pay that men earned.
Women's pay as pct. of men's: 69.8% Median income for men: $45,582 Median income for women: $31,820
The median earnings for women in the Palm Bay metropolitan area in 2011 who worked full time was less than 70% of that for men. The pay gap in the Palm Bay area actually bucks the trend in the state as a whole. In Florida, the median income for women was 83.8% that of men's, the sixth-smallest gap of all states. Nearly 3.7% of the population works in health support, a higher percentage than all but one other city. The pay gap in that field is very large. Women earned just over 55% the pay of men in 2011. One bright spot was in computer and mathematical occupations. Women earned a median income of more than $67,000, or approximately $3,900 more than the median wage for men.
Women's pay as pct. of men's: 69.3% Median income for men: $51,037 Median income for women: $35,362
The median income for a woman working full time in Baton Rouge was nearly $16,000 less than the median income for a man. About 7.6% of the population works in the construction and extraction industry, the second-highest percentage of all metro areas measured. Many of these people are employed in chemical extraction. Chemical companies have a significant presence in Baton Rouge, with companies such as Dow Chemical, BASF and ExxonMobil's chemical unit among the largest employers in the region. In the construction and extraction industry, women earned just 52.4% of what men earned in 2011. Other fields where the pay gap between men and women in Baton Rouge was large include production, where the median income of women in 2011 was just 40.6% of the median income of men, and transportation, where women's earnings were just 42.8% that of men's.
Women's pay as pct. of men's: 68.6% Median income for men: $47,318 Median income for women: $32,446
Lancaster is an industrial town. About 11.6% of all full-time, year-round jobs in the region are in the manufacturing industry, the third-highest percentage of the top 100 largest metropolitan areas. Major manufacturers in the region include Armstrong World Industries and R.R. Donnelly & Sons. The median income for women in the manufacturing industry was just 64.3% that of men's in 2011. The gap was even worse in other fields. In the transportation industry, the median income of women was just 43% that of men's in 2011, one of the widest pay gaps among the largest metropolitan areas in that field.
Women's pay as pct. of men's: 65.2% Median income for men: $52,184 Median income for women: $34,018
Ogden-Clearfield was one of just two metro areas where the median income for women was less than two-thirds of that of men's. The median income for women was less than half the median income of men in many occupations. In the legal profession, women working full-time earned just 26.3% of what men earned, the biggest pay discrepancy of all metro areas in that field. Women working full time in personal care and service occupations earned just 40.3% of the pay that men did, again the largest pay discrepancy of all metro areas. Other jobs where women's median income was less than half that of men's include sales, health diagnosis and treatment, and transportation occupations.
Women's pay as pct. of men's: 61.6% Median income for men: $51,692 Median income for women: $31,846
No metropolitan area had a greater pay disparity between men and women than Provo, where the median income in 2011 for men working full time was nearly $20,000 more than the median income for women. Women who worked in personal care and service occupations earned a median of just $18,590, or 44.3% of the earnings of their male counterparts. The pay gap was still vast even in higher-wage positions. Women working in business and financial operations earned just 57.8% of what men earned in 2011, one of the largest pay gaps in that field.