Hank Sims / @ 3:57 p.m. / Economy

SURVEY SAYS! Humboldt May Have the Smallest Gender Pay Gap in the State, But Only Because Its Men Make Very Little


Christian Testanier.

Last week the U.S. Census Bureau released the results of its 2015 American Community Survey, the annual long-form, deep-dive sample of the nation and the lives of its people. The ACS is the most detailed report that the Census Bureau does. It looks at oodles of interesting data — everything from the basics (race, age, gender, education, income) to esoteric questions like the age of the country’s housing stock, people’s access to broadband internet, the rate at which people bicycle to work and much more.

So the fun news for us here in Humboldt is that the Census Bureau breaks down the numbers by county. What interesting things might they tell us about Humboldt County?

A whole lot, actually! 

On Friday the LoCO downloaded all 68 of the American Community Survey’s “subject tables.” We asked for numbers broken down in the following ways: All the United States, the state of California, and by California county. Then we programmed up a little robot to root through this data and tell us when Humboldt County ranked in ..

1. The top five, or
2. The bottom five

… of California counties, in any and all of the various metrics surveyed by the Bureau.

Want to see what our robot found? Here’s a full list of the things it spit out. Might be a bit difficult to read, but all of it is there. Take a gander, if you like. Let us know what catches your eye.

This week we’re going to be looking though this list to highlight some of the interesting things about Humboldt County contained in the 2015 American Community Survey, starting, today, with some perhaps-unexpected findings on gender equity.

But first, a few words of warning about the data. 

One: The ACS will only report its one-year findings for populations over 65,000. That means that only 40 of California’s 58 counties are included in the survey results. Tehama, San Benito, Tuolumne, Calaveras, Siskiyou, Amador, Lassen, Glenn, Del Norte, Colusa, Plumas, Inyo, Mariposa, Mono, Trinity, Modoc, Sierra and Alpine are out.

Two: Keep in mind that the American Community Survey is a sample, which means that there are built-in margins of error. Those margins are very small on the state and national level, but the more you slice up the population, the larger they get. When you’re talking about the counties — and especially smaller counties, and even more especially subpopulations of smaller counties — they can get quite large indeed.

Three: We should probably keep in mind the fact that Humboldt has a huge black market economy, which likely affects the survey results in various subtle ways. Probably growers aren’t answering government survey forms in representative numbers.

Now.

One of the most surprising things we found in the survey is that Humboldt County ranks head and shoulders above the state and nation on equity of pay between men and women. Find the woman with the median earnings and the man with the median earnings in any given place. (The “median,” if you need a reminder, is that person standing dead in the middle if you lined everyone up in order.)

Nationwide, that median woman makes 72 cents for every dollar that the median man makes. California-wide, she makes 75.7 cents for every dollar made by her counterpart. But in Humboldt County, the median woman makes 89.4 cents for every dollar made by the median man.

That places Humboldt County at the top of all California counties included in the survey. Here, check this table:

Jurisdiction Women’s earnings as %
of men’s earnings
Margin of error
Humboldt County89.4±10.7
San Mateo County82.9±8.7
San Francisco County81.9±5.9
Madera County81.8±13.8
Monterey County81.5±6.1
California75.7±0.4
USA72.0±0.3

Source: “Occupation by sex and median earnings in the past 12 months (in 2015 inflation-adjusted dollars) for the civilian employed population 16 years and older.” 2015 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. Link.

(If you’re on your phone, try scrolling the table left and right.)

Even given the wide margin of error, Humboldt is well above the state and national averages, and is more likely than not to be the most gender-equitable California county included in the survey. 

Why should this be? 

You might want to argue that we are the wokest folk in the state, at least as far as the gender pay gap goes. And who can tell? You may not be all-the-way wrong. However, you should also take into account the fact that we are also among the worst-paid people in California, and that is particularly true of our men: 

JurisdictionMedian earnings ($)
for male 
Margin of error
Humboldt County$27,150±$2,984
Tulare County$27,171±$1,359
Madera County$27,483±$3,051
Lake County$28,970±$5,333
Merced County$29,746±$2,582
CALIFORNIA$40,334±$116
USA$40,699±$51

 Ibid.

Humboldt ranks at California’s dead bottom for male earnings, at least among the 40 counties included in the survey. (Though the wide margin of error essentially makes it a many-way tie for last.) By contrast, Humboldt County women rank 28th out of 40 — still poorly, but not quite as horrible as the men.

Overall, we’re just not making that much money — men or women — and so it’s probably not surprising that the gender pay gap should be smaller. There’s only so little you can pay a person.

Want to check out these numbers for yourself? The particular subject table referenced above further breaks down these gender/earnings numbers by occupation. See if you see anything cool in these things. Here are links to the table on American Fact Finder:

More of Humboldt County’s American Community Survey in the coming days!


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