Seattle's Gender Pay Gap

For educated Seattleites, the gap between what men and women earn widens to a canyon. 

Comparing median incomes, women in Seattle earn roughly 78 cents for every dollar men earn. 

This gender pay gap—calculated from median income statistics for Americans 25 years or older—is narrower for Seattle than for Washington (66 cents) and the nation as a whole (72 cents). But it is still a big gap for a large, liberal American city that prides itself on ideals of equality. Seattle’s gap is significantly wider than American cities with the closest total populations—Denver, Boston, Baltimore, and Nashville.

A deeper dive into the data reveals why. The more educated Seattleites are, the wider the gender pay gap becomes. This pattern points to a continuing struggle to deal with gender equality in the beating heart of Seattle’s economy—the tech industry. 

Seattle's gender pay gap is largest among the highly-educated.

Across the board, women make less than men. But this gap is much smaller for Seattleites without college educations. Women with high school degrees make 84 cents on the dollar compared to men—significantly more than the national figures. 

This favorable gender pay comparison all but disappears as women bring higher levels of education to work. For people with bachelor’s degrees, women make 72 cents on the dollar compared to men. For people with graduate or professional degrees, women only make 68 cents on the dollar—no better than the abysmal national average. 

Baltimore, Boston, Denver, and Nashville—four cities with populations roughly the same as Seattle—do not exhibit this pattern. Women with graduate degrees in these cities have median incomes much nearer to parity with men than they do in Seattle. 

Tech is a huge part of Seattle’s economy. As such, this data may indicate how much further this industry has to go toward equitable hiring practices. 

But tech is not the whole story of Seattle’s wage gap. Many tech workers do not have advanced degrees, and many Seattleites with advanced degrees do not work in tech. 

The data should be a wake-up call for every industry in Seattle to make sure women with advanced degrees are not getting underpaid.  

Explore the data on the gender pay gap.

Select an education level, and see how America's 50 biggest cities stack up.

About the Data

The data in this article is based on the Census Bureau's American Community Survey dataset, "Median earnings in the past 12 months (in 2014 inflation-adjusted dollars) by sex by educational attainment for the population 25 years and over." LiveStories calculated "cents on the dollar" women make by dividing the reported female median income by the male income for each education level. The data comes from the American Community Survey's five-year estimates spanning 2011 to 2015, the latest such estimates available.

Cover photo: Travis Seera