Addressing the gender pay gap through data visualization

Charts & Graphs, Lab Reports, Maps


It has been over half a century since pay discrimination became illegal in the US, however a constant pay gap between men and women has degraded some of the values the nation was built on – ‘All men are born equal’. Women are paid 83 cents to every dollar earned by a man , even those working full time doing similar tasks and working in the same environment (Source: AAUW). Such a disparity have crucial consequences that affect women’s lives throughout – even in to their retirement.  Lower pay is the reality for working women in the United States, regardless of the contributing factors. It is a reflection of women having less power in the workplace and jobs with less prestige, and it contributes to higher poverty rates for women and their children. The struggles facing women in our society are complex, but a simple statistic comparing the median annual pay of women and men who work full time is an important starting point in understanding the economic status of women.

I decided to draw data from ACS in order to understand more about the pay gap between the genders. I also wanted to understand if education plays a role in improving the situation of women’s lives in terms of wages. In this report, I am going to compare the data between median earnings for both men and women while factoring in their education status as well across the US in 2020. I will also be providing a graph showing the changes in wage gap across the past 5 years (2015-2020).

Tools Used

  • All the data that have been used here is from Social Explorer, from ACS (US Census Bureau). The data contains 
    • Median salaries for both genders across 49 states of the country in 2020 (Hawaii not available).
    • Median salaries for both females and males are separated by their education status. The two educations statues are Bachelor’s Degree and less than High School Graduate
    • Average percentage wage gap between male and female across the US for the past 5 years (2015 – 2020)
  • I have used datawrapper to create charts to visualize the data I am trying to portray.
  • I have also used online websites to research and understand more of what I am trying to highlight about the disparity.


Here is the map showing median salaries in 2020 across the United States, as you can see it’s clearly male-dominated. There are very few counties where the female salaries edge the male.

From the above chart, we can easily infer that the wage gap between male and female is significantly evident, with females earning around 27% on average lesser than their male counterparts across 49 states of the US. That is quite deflating given its been around 100 years since the Women’s Suffragette movement of 1920’s where women first began fighting for equal rights and wages. 100 years later, women barely have equality in terms of rights while there has been minimal progress on wages.

The overall graph is not detailed to make the required inferences. Wages in the market are dependent on a lot of factors with education and experience being some of the prime ones. If a male and female have undergone the same level of education (or lack thereof), it is a reasonable expectation that the wage gap would be almost similar under aggregation. However, this is not the case.

Here we have two graphs showing the wage gap under two distributions, one with participants having education level less than high school graduates and one with the participants have education level of at least graduate degree like Masters. We do see the wage gap decrease a bit in states with large urban landscapes and cities such as New York, California, Texas , District of Columbia, New Jersey etc. This does make sense since the jobs offered in these locations would demand a certain level of skills and qualifications and the corporate America does reward individuals that cater to the economies needs regardless of gender. However, the decrease in the wage gap is hardly significant considering the amount of time and money is invested into higher education for the women. At the same time, the wage gap decrease in rural states with a mainly agriculture and manufacturing economy is quite significant. Wyoming sees the median wage gap drop from 51.9% if you’ve not gotten a high school education all the way to 16.9% if you have a graduate education and similarly for the likes of Montana, North Dakota, Soth Dakota, Rhode Island. This is interesting because the large wage gap decrease with higher education in rural states signifies a different mentality compared to the stereotype of these states not valuing education. A woman with a higher education in these states are able to validate their requests for higher wages to their employer through their education and work since everybody is willing to take the chance on an enlightened individual. At the same time, in the urban states, the corporate structure is rigidly patriarchal with burgeoning talent on both genders so its harder for women to justify higher wages to their employers.

Finally the above graph shows the average wage gap in percentage across the US for the past 5 years. It can be easily inferred that the wage gap hasn’t changed much over the past few years, but we did see a good drop in 2020. This could be attributed to the covid pandemic, wherein we saw the ‘Great Resignation’ phenomenon where the job market was turned on its head and employees chose to either move to more fulfilling (and higher paid) roles or take the opportunity to start a business by themselves. Either ways, its a positive note but not yet where we need the numbers to be.


While I can clearly see the pay gap between the gender with the current data, it is not possible to determine with conviction as to why this is still a prevalent issue. I feel there are a lot of intangible elements involved like mentality, culture etc. but there are also measurable factors. I would like to learn more about these factors that effects this issue such as race and ethnicity, disability, access to education and age. I would like to study more about this, find more specific data in order to bring awareness and discuss more about this issue.