Today’s guest post comes from Jen Gonet, a soon-to-be graduate of the UMass Dartmouth MPP program who is currently a graduate research assistant at the Urban Initiative.
Recently I’ve been compiling some data about the status of women in the South Coast. Soon to graduate with my master’s degree and living in New Bedford, I found one number of particular interest. Fall River women with graduate or professional degrees have a median income that is almost the same as their counterparts across the state. Fall River women with graduate and professional degrees are earning $56,099, while across the state their counterparts are earning $56,783. Additionally, the good news is that women with graduate or professional degree credentials in Fall River (and Massachusetts) also have higher incomes than our fellow females nationwide.
While this is exciting news to someone like me, who is soon to have these credentials, it brings up an important discussion for our region. The discussion is of the educational achievement of women in our region’s cities of Fall River and New Bedford and the implications it has.
While I don’t want to seem to be forgetting our male counterparts, I will demonstrate why higher educational credentials are so important specifically for the women in our area. Compared to the men in our cities, achieving a higher education degree is much more important for the women. Don’t believe me? Here’s the data to show it. Women in both cities with lower educational attainment are making much less than the local males with similar credentials. For example, the median income for a male with less than a high school diploma in New Bedford is $31,930, while a woman with less than a high school diploma is making just $17,727. Fall River is no different with $29,513 for the same male while the woman is making $16,692. Across all levels of educational attainment women are making less than the males, however, the point here is to demonstrate that higher education is the key for women. Men’s earnings are used as a reference point to show that in each community a woman does not earn more than a man without a high school diploma until she achieves at least a bachelor’s degree. We are speaking in general terms, but the numbers do demonstrate the importance that, generally speaking, the higher her education, the higher a woman’s earning potential becomes. The opportunity does not seem to be the same for women with less educational attainment then are available to men.
One reason for the disparity is the types of occupations women and men are employed in within our cities. As an example, the chart below shows percentage distribution of New Bedford men and women in certain occupational sectors. The professions women are employed in require higher educational attainment in order to advance in their careers, while men are more evenly distributed across all sectors.