Women fare better in New York state than in other states when it comes to pay equity, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said during a speech in late May.
"We have pay equity," said Hochul, who claimed women in New York state earn as much as twelve cents more on the dollar than the national average. "When you think about that wage gap, we all know it’s 78 cents to the dollar. Well, in New York state it’s 90 cents to the dollar."
While New York state and most other states have laws mandating equal pay for employees, a wage gap between men and women persists.
Is Hochul right about how narrow New York state’s gender wage gap is compared to the national average?
What the data shows
Hochul’s numbers are in the ballpark of what federal data shows.
Women in New York state earn 86.9 percent as much as the median pay of men, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Women earn 81.1 percent as much as men overall in the U.S. The bureau tracked full-time, year-round workers in 2015, the most recent numbers.
Only three other states and Washington, D.C., have smaller gaps. Women in Hawaii earn 87.9 percent as much as men, the highest level.
Research from the National Women’s Law Center places New York state higher. The center compared data from the U.S. Census Bureau on the median salary of full-time, year-round male and female employees in each state from 2015. The census estimates show women in New York state earn 88.7 percent as much as men — more than any other state — compared with 79.6 percent overall in the U.S.
"The data sample sizes are larger using the [Census Bureau] community survey, which is why we and other organizations use it," said Maya Raghu, NWLC Director of Workplace Equality.
Why New York state differs
New York has exceeded the national average in pay equity since at least 1998, the earliest federal data available online. Some years are better than others. New York state was less than one percentage point above the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ national average in 2005, when women earned 81 percent as much as men in the U.S.
Other states consistently rank near the bottom for pay equity.
Why? Experts say no single reason explains it.
Occupational segregation is one reason. The types of jobs women and men hold vary by state, Raghu said. North Dakota, where high-earning men dominate the oil industry, ranks low for pay equity.
New York state’s higher minimum wage also makes a difference. The minimum wage in New York was $8.75 in 2015, above the federal minimum wage of $7.25. Having a higher pay floor reduces the gender wage gap for lower-income workers, experts say.
"In places like New York that have a higher minimum wage, you’re going to see a smaller wage gap particularly at the lower end of the distribution," said Elise Gould, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute.
Union membership also has an effect, Gould said.
New York state ranks higher in union membership than any other state in the country with a 23.6 percent union membership rate. Wyoming, which has the widest gender wage gap in the country, has a 6.3 percent union membership rate.
"Your unions may be very strong in New York, including teachers unions and unions that support service workers," said Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow in Economic Studies at the Brookings Institution.
New York City also drives up the state’s pay equity ranking. Data from the American Association of University Women breaks down the wage gap by congressional district in New York state. Most districts in New York City rank above those upstate.
"I think the rural urban divide is definitely part of the story," said Kevin Miller, a senior researcher at AAUW. "Cities tend to have smaller gaps, which is why we see the District of Columbia having a small gap."
Education is part of that. More women in New York state hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to census data.
"The educational advantage is increasingly shifting toward women away from men, and in a technologically advancing economy that’s going to favor toward women and raise their relative earnings," Sawhill said.
The family choices some women make during their careers also explain the wage gap.
Women are more likely to take time off work to care for a newborn child or a sick relative. A woman in that scenario may miss a significant chunk in pay during their leave from work. Without supplemental income during that time away from work, women are more likely to report lower pay than their male colleagues, experts say.
Hochul said the gender wage gap in New York state is "90 cents to the dollar."
Hochul is close to what federal data and research groups report as the wage gap in New York state. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says women in New York make close to 87 percent of what men make. Researchers say it is closer to 89 percent.
Hochul's numbers are slightly off. The data reveals a gender pay gap, but her point that New York state has a significantly smaller gap compared with the national average is correct. We rate her claim Mostly True.