[Homestead] Male-Female Wage Gap in Cowboy Country
Jerry W. Shepperd
shepperd at austincc.edu
Wed Feb 9 12:19:10 EST 2005
An interesting item about one rural Texas county. If you can go to the
website, check out the picture gallery. There is also a short video, which
requires either Realplayer or Windows Media
from National Public Radio
Male-Female Wage Gap in Cowboy Country
by <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=2783201>Howard Berkes
Considered, February 8, 2005 · In the United States, men generally earn
more money than women -- about 25 percent more, on average. But thats not
the case everywhere. In 15 counties scattered across America, women working
full time, on average, take home bigger paychecks than men.
All of those counties are rural, and most are in the Western United States,
including King County, Texas, where this unconventional wage gap is widest.
The average female worker in King County makes 30 percent more than her
male counterpart -- that equals about $9,000 a year.
NPRs Howard Berkes recently visited King County to meet some of the
working men and women there, and examine the reasons behind the gap.
King County is true cowboy country. In fact, its rolling prairies and
rugged cowpokes are featured in Marlboro cigarette ads running overseas.
The county stretches over 900 square miles of range land and oil fields in
northwestern Texas. There are less than 400 human residents, about 1,000
horses and about 10,000 cows. No stoplights, no supermarkets, no
restaurants, no local newspapers, no incorporated towns.
And that's part of the reason for the wage gap -- much of the work here is
traditionally defined as "men's work." Hard, dirty, often dangerous work,
punching cattle or tending oil rigs. Men wear spurs, and use them.
Women, on the other hand, outnumber the men at the local courthouse, and
there are more female teachers in the schools. Those jobs generally pay
better than work as a ranch hand, and teachers get many benefits -- free
housing, a salary boost -- for working in such a remote location.
But men and women say the dollar amounts don't tell the full story. Some
ranch hands, for example, also get free housing, plus health insurance, a
pickup truck and gas, and other benefits. That, and a full year's supply of
And regardless of the wage gap, the traditional male-female roles remain
much the same as anywhere else. The biggest ranch in the county may be
owned by a woman in Fort Worth, but it's managed by men. Men are the
decision-makers at the courthouse, and both the principal and
superintendent at the school are men.
All this talk of male-female pay gaps doesn't phase Linda Lewis, who makes
a good living as the County Clerk, and her husband Ron Lewis, a veteran
cowboy. "It doesn't concern us," says Ron Lewis. "God's been good to us.
Hes provided for us really well, we've raised our family here. It's just a
"It's not mine and yours -- it's ours. We put it together," adds Linda
Lewis. "So it's no big deal."
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