The Wage Gap in St. Louis County and Minnesota

Are women in Minnesota (and St. Louis County) earning as much as their male counterparts? 

Recently, the Center on Women, Gender, and Public Policy at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities campus created a fact sheet on gender and employment in Minnesota. The center found that despite Minnesota being second in the nation for women’s labor force participation—61% of women over the age of 16 and 79% of mothers with children under age six are in the labor force—the state has the 20th largest wage gap in the United States. In other words, 30 states have wages that are more equitable than they are in Minnesota. And the state’s wage gap is larger for women of color. According to the analysis, the leading factors behind the gender wage gap are type of occupation, work experience, and unexplained factors that reflect discrimination.

With this information, we at the BBER wanted to examine gender equity in employment and wages for St. Louis County to see how the county compares to the state overall. To do so, we used the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Quarterly Employment Demographic (QED) tool.

Using the latest data available, which is from 2021, we looked at the share of jobs held by men and women in the 11 super sectors with Minnesota statistics shown in Figure 1 and the county’s statistics shown in Figure 2. The “Total” category, shown in the middle of the graph, represents the average for all industries.

Share of Jobs by Gender, Industry

Figures 3 and 4 depict the median hourly wage in the 11 super sectors in Minnesota and St. Louis County, respectively. The industries are sorted by the size of the wage gap between men and women with the largest gap at the top of the figure. The asterisks indicate industries that have a larger share of women than men, as shown in Figure 1 and 2. Again, the “Total” category, shown in the middle of the figure represents the average for all industries. Therefore, industries that appear above the total have a larger than average wage gap in that region and industries that appear below have a smaller than average wage gap.

Wages by Gender, Industry


After spending some time looking at these charts, there are many interesting things about the wage gap in different industries between Minnesota and St. Louis County. Here are our key findings.

  • Construction, natural resources and mining, and manufacturing have the largest share of men at both the state and county levels. Leisure and hospitality, other services, financial activities, and education and health services are the only industries with a majority of women at the state and county level. 
  • In St. Louis County, the industries with the largest share of male workers (i.e., construction and natural resources and mining) are also the two industries with the highest wages and the largest wage gap between male and female workers.
  • For all industries, St. Louis County’s wage gap ($4.49 per hour) is larger than the state’s ($3.96).
  • In St. Louis County, there is only one industry (Leisure and Hospitality) in which women’s median hourly wage is higher than that of men’s. That industry also happens to have the lowest median wage of the eleven shown in the graph. In Minnesota, men’s median hourly wage is higher in all eleven industries.
  • Both the education and health services industry and the leisure and hospitality industry have the smallest wage gaps in the state and county.

Clearly, both Minnesota and St. Louis County still have work to do to make wages more equitable.

According to the Center on Women, Gender, and Public Policy, the best policies to address the gender wage gap include de-segregating occupations, combating discrimination, and addressing experience deficits caused by the care penalty, which is the negative effect on women’s wages due to taking time off to care for children.

The U.S. Department of Labor has several initiatives in progress to combat the wage gap for women and people of color. These initiatives include goals such as removing hiring barriers and promoting diversity in construction trades, increasing equal employment opportunities on infrastructure projects, and prohibiting employers from asking about prior salaries. These programs will especially help St. Louis County, which has the largest wage gap in construction.

For more information on pay discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission put together a list of FAQ.

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