By Haas Center on November 7, 2018
While a significant pay gap still exists between men and women in Pensacola, it has been shrinking in most area industries. In comparing employment data from the US Census Bureau Quarterly Workforce Indicators program for 2002 and 2016, we found that average pay for women in several industries was now significantly closer to men’s pay.The largest improvements were made in the utilities, wholesale trade and educational services industries. The most notable industry with a large gap in pay levels is the healthcare and social services industry. To see why this disparity is so large and apparently growing, we looked at data on the major occupations within the health care industry. And we found that sometimes a wage gap is not a gap that can be easily fixed.First, the health care industry is a very labor intensive industry. Patient care requires lots of hands to support the doctors who diagnose and order treatment, particularly in a hospital or nursing home setting. Thus the sheer numbers of these lesser paid individuals will significantly impact the average wage in the industry, even if both males and females receive exactly the same wage for the job.In Pensacola, registered nurse is the largest occupation for females and the second largest occupation for males in the health care industry. But there are 3,450 female registered nurse and only 409 male ones. It takes 33 different male occupations in the healthcare industry for their numbers to approximate just the number of female registered nurses.Because the healthcare industry requires such a larger number of nursing professionals, it creates a pyramid effect in the numbers employed in different professions. The healthcare industry also has inherent limitations in its ability to create new markets that would expand the numbers of higher paid professionals needed to bridge the gap. The number of physicians is also controlled by the limited number of medical schools sanctioned by the AMA and state licensing requirements. Projected growth for healthcare occupations in the Pensacola MSA indicates that 55% of the predicted growth in the industry will happen in the lower paid occupations of registered nurse, nursing assistants, medical assistants, home health aides, and licensed practical nurses.Thus in order for the gender pay gap to close in such a labor intensive industry, there would have to be a substitution of females into higher wage jobs with men replacing them in the lower wage ones. Or alternatively, nursing professionals would need to be paid significantly more, potentially driving up healthcare costs.