Women's income beats inflation, men's falls behind

Tuesday, August 20th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The incomes of Oklahoma's working women grew 7 percent faster than inflation during the last decade although the incomes of working men fell behind, according to census data.

Data scheduled to be released by the U.S. Census Bureau Tuesday also shows that Oklahoma made progress in closing the income gap between minority and white households.

Asian households attained near parity with white households, while median household income grew slightly faster for black and American Indian households compared with white households.

Hispanics households, however, fell further behind white households over the decade.

University of Oklahoma economist Robert Dauffenbach said he is not surprised that women's incomes have gained while men have fallen behind.

Dauffenbach said more women have entered the work force, and women have entered a broader range of occupations.

``There are very few households that can make it today without two earners...And more women have gone to college and gotten out of traditional occupations,'' Dauffenbach said.

Through the 1990s, female enrollment in Oklahoma public higher education averaged 23 percent higher than male enrollment.

But men still have an edge in educational attainment _ 22 percent of Oklahoma men 25 and older have college degrees, compared with 18 percent of women.

Measured in 1999 inflation-adjusted dollars, the median income declined from $33,973 in the 1990 census to $31,181 in the 2000 census for men 15 and older who worked full time the previous year. That is a decline of 4 percent.

At the same time, the inflation-adjusted median income for full-time working women grew by 7 percent, from $21,830 to $23,450. That closed the income gap between men and women from $11,351 to $8,523.

Education also plays a key role in the income gap between white and minority households, University of Oklahoma sociologist Wil Scott said.

``The income difference between blacks and whites was really substantial prior to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964,'' Scott said.

``As educational attainment in the black community has gone up, the income gap has closed.

``But there's quite a bit of lag time between increases in educational attainment and closing of the income gap _ at least a generation,'' he said.

The median household income of the racial group with the highest educational attainment _ Asians _ nearly matched white households in income.

The new census data show that almost 38 percent of Asians 25 and older have college degrees, compared with 20 percent of whites.

In 2000, the median income for Asian households trailed white households by only 3 percent. In 1990, the gap was 10 percent.

Black and American Indian households also made progress through the 1990s.

In the 2000 census, the median income for black households was 33 percent lower than white households, down from 37 percent in 1990.

The median income for American Indian households was 23 percent less than white households in the 2000 census. In 1990, they were 27 percent behind.

The median income gap between Hispanic and white households, however, grew from 20 percent in 1990 to 21 percent in 2000.

Of all racial groups, Hispanics have the lowest rate of college graduation, though that rate more than doubled from 4 percent in 1990 to 10 percent in 2000.