CHAMBLEE, Ga. — This Atlanta suburb is a lot like other metropolitan suburbs around the country. A manufacturing economy is giving way to new apartments and tech enterprises built around a quick commute to Atlanta.
And as in other communities, there’s a measurable pay gap between its working men and women. But there’s something different about Chamblee: Here it’s the women who earn the higher wages, typically $1.37 for every dollar brought home by a man.
That’s astonishing in a country where — nearly universally and in nearly all of the 2,700 locations reviewed by Stateline — men earn more than women. Nationally, the pay gap is wide: Women still earn less than 80 cents for every dollar men take home.
Of the 2,700 locations in the United States with more than 10,000 workers, Stateline found, there are just six municipalities and one county that flip the script in a statistically significant way.
A Stateline review of census data on earnings across the country found that women also make more in Lake Worth, Florida; the cities of Plainfield and Trenton in New Jersey; Inglewood, California; the village of Hempstead on Long Island, New York; and the Washington, D.C., suburb of Prince George’s County, Maryland.
Most are diverse suburbs in large metro areas. All are majority-minority, and many have low-income neighborhoods as well as the economic benefits of proximity to vibrant cities.
The reasons for the pay differences are complex and uncertain: Pay may be relatively higher for young millennial women who have landed jobs in big cities and found affordable housing in commuter suburbs such as these. And the communities’ high numbers of single male laborers, many of whom are immigrants working without documentation, can also hold down male income, which makes female income relatively higher.But there are also some hopeful signs for all women in these places: Women in Chamblee, for instance, earn more than women in the Atlanta area as a whole, and out-earn men in some lucrative, male-dominated fields, such as computers and engineering, with the help of female business entrepreneurs sensitive to the need for flexibility to attend to family responsibilities.
In Chamblee, one of those women is Lindsey Cambardella, an attorney who grew up in the area and yearned to run a business. She applied last year for her dream job, running a national language interpretation and translation firm. She was married, in her 30s, with no kids — and worried about that impression.“I was very up front,” Cambardella recalled recently. “I said, ‘I’m planning to have children — and soon. I don’t want you to have any surprises.’”Fortunately, the business owner was also a woman, one who had built the firm up by herself over 20 years after a career in sales and state government, while also raising a son.“She immediately shot back: ‘That doesn’t scare me at all,’” Cambardella, 34, recalled. “I think I was lucky in that she was open-minded and not worried about it.”
Cambardella now makes more than her husband, an urban landscape architect who took a step down in pay recently to take a job with the city of Atlanta.
Claudia Goldin, a Harvard University economist, argued in a 2015 paper that more flexible hours would go a long way toward solving the gender pay gap, which she said is often caused in part by women working fewer hours and stopping work at times, often to raise children.That’s one reason Shear Structural, an engineering firm started by three women in Chamblee, prioritizes flexibility, said co-founder Malory Atkinson.
“They say a lot more women study STEM fields than actually end up working in it,” she said, “so we’re very cognizant of that, and we do whatever it takes to be accommodating.”
The gender pay gap is especially wide for women with children and women who are married (because employers suspect they will have children). Men, by contrast, tend to get paid more after marriage based on the assumption it will make them more ambitious.“Marriage adds a premium to a man’s income, and it’s a drag on women’s income,” said Ariane Hegewisch, study director for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington.
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