Minneapolis is No. 2 in the nation for women who make more than their male partners

Women overwhelmingly make less than men, and that's true here, too -- but a higher percentage of Minneapolis women are breadwinners.

Women overwhelmingly make less than men, and that's true here, too -- but a higher percentage of Minneapolis women are breadwinners. Renee Jones, Star Tribune

In an ideal world, you could meet a random straight couple on the street, and there would be a 50-50 chance that the woman would be the breadwinner between the two.

We do not live in an ideal world. According to U.S. Census Bureau data from 2017, women still make about 71 percent of what their male counterparts make, so they’re far less likely to be the primary earner in a given couple.

In fact, according to data compiled by loan broker LendingTree, in the nation’s 50 largest metros, women were the main breadwinners in less than 31 percent of couples’ households. (Keep in mind, this doesn’t count households where women are the only breadwinners.)

But there’s a silver lining -- for us, at least. Minneapolis ranked second for cities that come closest to that ideal 50 percent. Here, the rate of female breadwinners is 31.2 percent -- just 0.1 percent behind the top spot, which was snagged by Hartford, Connecticut. We’re followed closely by Columbus, Providence, and Baltimore, which hover between 30 and 31 percent.

At the very bottom of the list, we have Salt Lake City, where fewer than a quarter of couples include a woman who earns more than her partner.

There are a few reasons we got the No. 2 spot. The biggest is our fairly low unemployment rate among women. They make up 51 percent of our state’s workforce, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (MDEED). But on top of that, nearly one-third of our legislators, 32 percent of our business owners, and 41 percent of our managers -- jobs that earn, on average, more money -- are women, which helps tip the scale.

Plus, thanks to Minnesota’s pregnancy and parental protection laws, Minneapolitans are entitled to up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave. All of that adds up to making a (relatively) woman-friendly workplace.

Before you get too excited about Minneapolis somehow fixing gender inequality, we’ve also got our drawbacks. Based on the 2016 American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, we still have nearly a 20 percent gender wage gap, which actually puts us in the bottom half of our metro peers. And that’s a statewide issue, too. MDEED data from 2015 found the median hourly wage for a Minnesotan woman was $16.75, compared to that of a Minnesotan man: $20.

So, why do women make so much less than men, even in a city that’s supposed to be relatively progressive and woman-friendly? Welcome to the same fight we’ve been having for years. One of the more popular theories has been that women simply choose industries that don’t pay as much or don’t require as high an education level (the health care and social assistance industry employed about a quarter of Minnesotan women in 2015).

But the wage gap exists across industries and educational attainment. That same year, men routinely earned more in Minnesota’s health care and social services industry, whether they had a doctorate or an associate degree.

The takeaway: Minneapolis is doing pretty good, as long as the equal pay bar remains this low. But if we really want to shoot for equality, we need to raise that bar.