U.S. reservation wage hits $75,811 a year—but women still expect less than men

American men are demanding an average of almost $26,000 a year more than their female counterparts when it comes to accepting a job offer, according to a new Federal Reserve study.

In the latest version of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Survey of Consumer Expectations, researchers found that the average “reservation wage”—the minimum annual salary it would take for respondents to accept a new job—hit $75,811 last month.

The findings reflected the opinions of 1,300 American “household heads,” whom the Fed surveyed over the course of the 12 months to March 2023.

The previous installation of the survey showed that in November 2022, the reservation wage stood at $73,667.

This increase was driven by those over age 45, analysts noted, as well as those educated to at least a college degree level.  

Gender pay gap

While the reservation wage was continuing on an upward trajectory, the survey’s findings showed that there was a vast discrepancy between what men and women were willing to accept when it came to pay negotiations.

The average lowest wage male respondents were willing to accept was $88,883, according to the questionnaire responses, while women were looking for an average minimum salary of $63,069—a gap of $25,814.  

According to the survey, however, U.S. employers are failing to keep up with employee expectations when it comes to pay offers in a continuously tight labor market.

On average, those expecting job offers in the coming four months said they expected to be offered a full-time salary of $58,710—22% less than the reservation wage.

The amount of money on offer for those switching jobs also appeared to be decreasing, with the average expected salary offer declining from $61,187 in November.

Men who were expecting a job offer said they were expecting to be offered an average salary of $66,487, while women waiting on an offer told Fed researchers they expected to be offered $50,659.

The average full-time annual salary of the survey respondents was $78,779.

Resignation plans

Despite apparent mismatched pay expectations between workers and employers, the study’s findings suggested that many Americans were continuing to consider leaving their current jobs—even amid speculation from some careers experts that the so-called Great Resignation will come to an end in 2023.

The number of respondents who said they expected to move to a new employer within the next four months hit 12.5% in March, up from 10.7% in November and the highest level since July 2014.

Americans are underwhelmed by what their current jobs have to offer, the poll’s findings suggested: satisfaction with salary, non-wage benefits, and promotion opportunities at current jobs all declined between November and last month.

Less than a third of workers said they expected their employer would make a counteroffer that matched an outside job offer—with one in five saying they were expecting to receive at least one job offer within the next four months.


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