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Pittsburgh Perspectives  

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Monday, June 24, 2019  01:05 PM  (22)

College-Educated Women in the Workforce

Last week the Pew Research Center reported on trends in the gender composition of the nation's college-educated workforce.* Their analysis showed that in the 1st quarter of 2019, the number of college-educated women in the workforce (29.5 million) exceeded the number of college-educated men (29.3 million) for the first time. With the gap between men and women in the college-educated workforce declining over recent years, the trend suggests 2019 will be the first full year women will make up a majority of college-educated workers in the United States.

Similar trends have been underway the Pittsburgh region over recent decades.  Pittsburgh’s manufacturing history had left it with a predominantly male workforce into the early 1980s. Women were typically underrepresented not only in manufacturing jobs but often were underrepresented in a wide range of non-industrial industries and occupations across the regional economy.  

The shift away from blue-collar occupations in the regional economy has increased the number and proportion of workers with a bachelors degree or higher levels of educational attainment. Today, 399,105 college-educated workers in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) make up just over 42% of all employed workers in the region between the ages of 25 and 64.**

The gap between genders has contracted since the 1980s. While men currently make up a slight majority of college-educated workers in the Pittsburgh region (2018Q2: 50.4%), more recent trends exhibit a new divergence within the region. The table below shows recent trends in the proportion of women among college-educated workers (age 25 and over) in Allegheny County and separately for the counties that make up the remainder of the Pittsburgh (MSA).

Historically women have been increasing their share of jobs among college-educated workers in both Allegheny County and the suburban counties of the Pittsburgh MSA. However, over the most recent decade,  the proportion of college-educated workers in suburban Pittsburgh jobs has remained stagnant or even declined slightly since 2010.  In recent years women have continued to increase their share of college-educated workers with jobs located in Allegheny County. The first two quarters of 2018 show that the number of college-educated women working in Allegheny County exceeded the number of college-educated men, likely for the first time ever. 

Quarterly data presented here are compiled from the U.S. Census Bureau, Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics (LEHD) Quarterly Workforce Indicators (QWI) program and reflects employment by place of work. College-educated workers are those with a bachelors degree or higher and the data here is for workers age 25 and over. The remainder of the Pittsburgh MSA is defined as six counties of southwestern Pennsylvania:  Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland. Employment data used to make the chart above can be downloaded here


* Richard Fry , U.S. women near milestone in the college-educated labor force, Pew Research Center. June 20, 2019. 

** American Community Survey, 2017 1-year estimates, table B23006


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