Women in the Washington metropolitan area who work full time the year around have a higher median income than women anywhere else in the country, according to a survey soon to be released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The median annual income for all women in the Washington area was $9.958, almost $2,500 more than the median for women in the nation as a whole. New York City women ranked second in the country, followed by women in Detroit.
Washington area women college graduates ranked third in earnings in the nation, behind New York City, $13,824, and Detroit, $12,938. Women college graduates working full time in Washington had a median income in 1975, the income year surveyed, of $12,915.
While the earnings of women in this area are among the highest in the country, they lag far behind the earnings of men, according to the survey. The median income for all men working full time in the area was $16,670, and for men college graduates, it was $22,675. Earnings of area men also exceeded the national median, which was $12,770 for all men and $17,891 for male college graduates.
A labor bureau economist who has analyzed the study attributed the high earnings of women here to "a high proportion of professional and managerial jobs available in this area in government, private industry and trade associations."
George Grier, a private consultant who specializes in population and housing market analysis and is particularly familiar with Washington-area demographics, pointed to the "government and the high salaries paid here and the industries that feed on it (the government) which have a tremendous demand for skilled personnel, particularly clerical personnel. This reflects, I think, particularly secreterial and clerical wages and the good wages paid that kind of worker here."
"I'd like to think that (the high earning level) reflects the tremendous utilization of women in professional positions. I think that's truer here than elsewhere, but I think there are still unequal opportunities for women. It's better here than elsewhere in part because of the government and the tendency of government to practice what it preaches. Equal opportunity is more likely to be practiced here, not that it always is. But I think basically a lot of this is secretarial jobs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics study of 158,500 households nationwide is the first such survey large enough to break down into standard metropolitan statistical areas, according to economist familiar with it. It provides documentation for the widely held belief that women in Washington have relatively high earnings and that this is a major force in the local economy, since about half the women here work full or part time.
Grier said the high income of women "helps to account for the very high household incomes here. It boosts the market for real estate and the prices for real estate. It also makes for the large, natural market for shopping centers. With the declining household size, the declining birthrate, a lot of these childless couples may have moderate incomes but they have a lot of disposable income."
Ruth Crone, director of human resources for the Council of Governments, said she was not surprised at the high earnings of women here. "Incomes generally are higher here than any place in the country, but everything else is relatively expensive too. While it may seem to someone in Des Moines that, gee, women are really making terrific incomes, how much of it is expendable income?" I'm not sure it's as grand and glorious as it seems."
The median earnings for all women in New York City was $9,479, placing it second, and for men it was $13,056. In Detroit, which ranked third, women had a median earning of $9,302 compared to $15,257 for men.
Figures for several other major cities showed that women in Los Angeles had median earnings of $8,507, men $13,831; Chicago women earned $8,630, men $14,965; San Francisco women were paid $9,187, men $16,089.
The median income for all full-time working women in the United States in 1975 was $7,531 and for women college graduates it was $10,861. The Tampa-St. Petersburg area of Florida had the lowest median incomes of any standard metropolitan statistical area, for both men and women, according to the survey. Women there were paid $7,020 a year and men $11,130. The labor economist attributed the low earnings in part to the high proportion of elderly and retired people living in that area.
Statistics for women working part-time and for the percentage of household income generated by married women were not immediately available.