Is your hard work being compensated? ForbesWoman's ranking of the best and worst states for women's wallets may make you think twice about where you settle down. The list, based on a July 2009 release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, ranked the median weekly earnings of full-time women workers by state.
The difference between the highest- and lowest-earning states was $356 a week, meaning that a female worker could be losing almost $19,000 per year, depending on where she calls home.
At the top of the list is Washington, D.C., where women make an average of $866 a week, largely because of the plethora of high-paying government jobs — many with a regulated pay system, helping to make the wage gap much tighter here than in the rest of the country. On average, women make 80 percent of men's earnings, but in D.C. they earn 92.2 percent as much as their male colleagues.
Other areas that top the list include Maryland, Connecticut and Massachusetts (second, third and fourth places, respectively) and their rankings highlight the fact that the Northeast is one of the best regions for women to secure big salaries. Women in these three states make between $762 and $774 each week.
A surprising addition at the top is Alaska, which comes in at No. 7. Despite being rural and sparsely populated, Alaska's women are pulling in $719 every week, far above the medians of most states. Men and women's salaries are higher in The Last Frontier because of the state's high cost of living, says Professor Bernard Weinstein of Business Economics at Southern Methodist University. "Everything is more expensive in Alaska because of its remoteness, so everyone earns more," he explains.
A notable absence in the top 10: New York. Despite New York City's reputation as the nation's financial capital, low-paying service jobs make up a bulk of the state's economy.
Southern and Western states are the worst states for women's pay. Women workers in Mississippi, which comes in last on our list, make only $510 per week. And the wage gap in Mississippi is below the national average: Women earn 75 cents on every dollar earned by men. The state often ranks at the bottom of earnings lists because of low graduation rates, low costs of living and a lack of job diversity. "Women in Mississippi typically have a low level of educational attainment, and that's usually the strongest correlation to earnings," says Professor Weinstein.
Across the country, however, women still haven't caught up to men's earnings. They make a median of $638 per week compared to $798 for their male counterparts — a 20 percent difference in weekly pay.
© 2012 Forbes.com