State Is a Leader in Women Workers
New York Times analysis shows Wisconsin is one of the leading states in the percent of women working.
Across the nation, 70 percent of women aged 25 to 54, in their prime working years, are employed. But in Wisconsin, the percentage is higher. Some of counties with the highest percentage of women working include two in this metro area: Washington County (83 percent) and Waukesha County (79 percent). Dane (83 percent) and Sauk (84 percent) counties in central Wisconsin also rank high. But the state’s leader is Pierce County (85 percent of women working), located along the Mississippi River, just across the border from the Twin Cities metro area
The data comes from a recent county-by-county analysis of the entire country by the New York Times. While the story doesn’t compute state averages, the color coded, county-by-county map makes clear that Wisconsin is among just a handful of states with the highest percentage of women working. In all, 70 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties rank above the national average in the percent of women working. The two exceptions are the heavily Native American Menomonee County (61 percent of women working) and Forest County (66 percent) along the Michigan border.
What makes Wisconsin a national leader in working women? Hard to say. The map shows it is part of a group of North Central states with high rates of working women, including Minnesota, most of Iowa and Nebraska, and much of South Dakota and North Dakota. What do they have in common? The only thing I can think of is agriculture. But the other area that ranks above average includes the states of Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, which has some farming but still seems pretty different than North Central states.
While a lack of employment for both women and men can correlate with poverty, “the geographic patterns of female work also have more nuances than the male patterns,” the story notes. One such factor is women staying home to bring up children. “Female employment rates are relatively low in some fairly affluent areas, including Utah and other heavily Mormon areas — as well as on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The East 80s and the suburbs of Salt Lake City may be very different places, but both have local cultures with a bent toward stay-at-home parenting, which still is far more likely to be done by mothers.”
By contrast, “female employment rates are notably high, especially compared with male rates, in New England and parts of the upper Midwest, which tend to be fairly well off. Female rates are also comparatively high in a swath of lower-income rural areas across the middle of the country. In all these places, education — the fact that women are now more educated than men — plays a big role in these contrasts.”
All told, the story doesn’t provide a very thorough explanation of why the rate of female employment varies so much through the country. I suspect there are other factors at work that haven’t yet been deduced.
The article is part of the Times’ data-oriented “Upshot” stories. Prior to this, an Upshot story did a county-by-county analysis of the percent of working age (25-54) men who aren’t employed. Here the story seemed a little simpler: low employment tended to connect to high poverty and low rates of college education. In Wisconsin, Menomonee County again led the way with 42 percent of working age men unemployed, while in Milwaukee County it was 24 percent. This compares to just 10 percent in Waukesha County. But overall, nothing about Wisconsin stood out: the state was not notably higher or lower in the percentage of working age men who were unemployed.