The Woman With the Highest Earning Potential

Highest-Earning-PotentialWorried about the market? Read our analysis to find out why you shouldn't panic.

We’d all love a boost in our salaries, and we’re willing to take on a few extra projects to get there. But what if the number on our paycheck isn’t just about hard work?

We’ve already heard that women who keep their maiden names tend to earn $500,000 more over their lifetimes, but that’s not the only unexpected predictor of earning potential.

So we decided to plumb the research and put together the stereotypical highly-paid woman based on all the statistics. In other words, if you know a blonde, Asian, non-smoking pharmacist named Deborah, she's probably making more than you. Obviously these statistics are not necessarily causal, but no matter what, they're interesting—check out the highest earning woman's stats below.

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Birthplace: Westlake, TX

36% of U.S. children who are born into families in the highest income tax bracket will stay in that bracket as they become adults. (With a median income of $250,000, Westlake tops the list of most affluent neighborhoods in the U.S.)

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Deborah

A survey of LinkedIn profiles found that the top female CEO names, in ranked order, are Deborah, Sally, Debra, Cynthia and Carolyn.

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Asian

As of 2008, Asian families in the United States earned a median income of $73,578—more than white families ($65,000), Hispanic families ($40,466) and black families ($39,879).

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Non-Smoker

The net worth of non-smokers is $8,300 higher than heavy smokers and $2,000 higher than light smokers.

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Pharmacist

Female pharmacists have the highest median weekly earnings among women, earning $1,647 every week. Chief executives and lawyers also top the list of highest paying jobs for women.

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Blonde

Blonde women in the UK make more than their brunette and redheaded counterparts. Blondes have a monthly take-home pay equivalent to $1,556, while brunettes make $1,432 and redheads make $1,357.

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Left-Handed

Left-handed people earn 5% more per hour than right-handed people. However, this effect is more pronounced in men.

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29 and Single

Single and childless women under 30 living in the biggest American cities earn 8-20% more than their male co-workers.

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Beautiful

Beautiful women earn about 5% more than average-looking women, and women with below-average looks make 9% less than their ordinary-looking counterparts. But being too attractive can work against you, especially if you're applying for a "masculine" job such as mechanical engineer or director of finance.

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Eldest Child

The eldest child is the most likely to earn a six-figure salary. The youngest child, on the other hand, is the least likely to earn $100,000 or more.

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Drinker

Women drinkers earn 14% more than non-drinkers, according to a study published by the Journal of Labor Research.

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MBA

The more education a woman has, the more income she will likely earn over a lifetime. A woman with a professional degree, for example, will earn, on average, $4.4 million over a lifetime, compared to $1.2 million for a high school graduate.

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5'10''

Studies have shown that tall people tend to earn more than their short co-workers. Every extra inch is worth an extra $1,000 per year in wages.

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Notable Trait: Assertive

Women who score low on "agreeableness" (or more bluntly, women who are mean) earn on average about 5% or $1,828 more than those who to try to please.

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130 pounds

Women considered "very thin" (25 pounds less than average) make $22,000 more every year than their co-workers of normal weight. Among white women, an extra 65 pounds is correlated with a 7% reduction in wages.

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Current Residence: Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. tops the list of American metropolitan regions with the highest income.

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Good Credit Report

Employers check credit reports during the hiring process to get an idea of your work ethic and financial responsibility. A good credit report can greatly boost your chances of landing a job.

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Even if you're blonde, Asian and from Texas, you should still negotiate for higher pay. Here's how.

Earning limitations are greatest in low-income motherhood. Read about this issue.

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  • H.

    Most of these are things that women (or people in general) have no control over.  They say more about cultural stereotypes and prejudices than anything else.  

    • E.O

      I completely agree, after reading this I thought the same thing.  Unfortunately I wish the article provided more substantive critical information.  
      E

    • Vicky

      “So we decided to plumb the research and put together the stereotypical highly-paid woman based on all the statistics”

      They clearly stated it would be stereotypical…

  • H.

    Most of these are things that women (or people in general) have no control over.  They say more about cultural stereotypes and prejudices than anything else.  

  • H.

    Most of these are things that women (or people in general) have no control over.  They say more about cultural stereotypes and prejudices than anything else.  

  • JackieAU5

    Very interesting article. It’s unfortunate that most of these positive occurances are directly related to appearance and weight.I also agree with the comment below, since none of this can be proven in all areas this is more of a social commentary–but an interesting one at that!

  • JackieAU5

    Very interesting article. It’s unfortunate that most of these positive occurances are directly related to appearance and weight.I also agree with the comment below, since none of this can be proven in all areas this is more of a social commentary–but an interesting one at that!

  • JackieAU5

    Very interesting article. It’s unfortunate that most of these positive occurances are directly related to appearance and weight.I also agree with the comment below, since none of this can be proven in all areas this is more of a social commentary–but an interesting one at that!

  • JackieAU5

    Very interesting article. It’s unfortunate that most of these positive occurances are directly related to appearance and weight.I also agree with the comment below, since none of this can be proven in all areas this is more of a social commentary–but an interesting one at that!

  • JackieAU5

    Very interesting article. It’s unfortunate that most of these positive occurances are directly related to appearance and weight.I also agree with the comment below, since none of this can be proven in all areas this is more of a social commentary–but an interesting one at that!

  • JackieAU5

    Very interesting article. It’s unfortunate that most of these positive occurances are directly related to appearance and weight.I also agree with the comment below, since none of this can be proven in all areas this is more of a social commentary–but an interesting one at that!

  • JackieAU5

    Very interesting article. It’s unfortunate that most of these positive occurances are directly related to appearance and weight.I also agree with the comment below, since none of this can be proven in all areas this is more of a social commentary–but an interesting one at that!

  • JackieAU5

    Very interesting article. It’s unfortunate that most of these positive occurances are directly related to appearance and weight.I also agree with the comment below, since none of this can be proven in all areas this is more of a social commentary–but an interesting one at that!

  • JackieAU5

    Very interesting article. It’s unfortunate that most of these positive occurances are directly related to appearance and weight.I also agree with the comment below, since none of this can be proven in all areas this is more of a social commentary–but an interesting one at that!

  • Candyurbanski

    Quite frankly, I’m tired of corporate america and all of the hoops that need to be jumped through to earn a living.  As women, we are constantly challenged to be someone we are not so that we can earn high salaries to fund our homes, childcare, college funds, etc. Dress a certain way, wear your hair a certain way, speak a certain way.  Whatever happened to self expression?  I’m have a post graduate degree and make an okay living because I fall into many of these stereotypes above.  Is it because I’m a hard worker or because I’m thin and attractive?  I don’t know if I really want to know.  My office tends to be filled with men who love to call us girls and tell us how beautiful we are.  Is that how they keep us down?  No wonder there are so many eating disorders, alcoholics and inconsiderate people out there.  I watch women step all over each other to get to where they want every day.  Its truly sad. 

    • Kristin

      Yes. By calling the successful women “girls” and telling you how beautiful you are, the men are essentially continuing to assert their “power.” These are subtle forms of (probably unconcious) sexual harrassment that need to be stopped – in your office and everywhere. I’m sure the women of your office have far more to offer than being attractive, and it would be great to see the men in your office recognize that. Regardless, you can start banding together with other women in your office to discuss these issues and form more of a support network.

      It is sad that we are really not equal in the workplace. We are allowed in, but we still must play by the men’s rules in many respects: office behavior, measures of success, how to advance and what is tolerated in the workplace. I think it is up to each and every woman to make the change in her workplace. Only then will we see this type of behavior and attitude change. Ok, sorry, stepping off the soapbox ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1586130041 AmyKate Andrews

    Score! I have 7 of the traits in the high-paying equation!
    1. Blonde
    2. Left handed
    3. Eldest child
    4. Definitely assertive/bossy
    5. Drinker (socially)
    6. Under 130 lbs
    7. Non-smoker

    Woohoo! Bring on the Benjamins. 

  • Kristin

    This article made me a little sad. But then I read Read about this issue.  (about mothers and low income.) That made me feel worse. In the comment sections on that particular aritcle, LV asked how they can help women in this issue. I wanted to address that. I am in that category. I want to know how I can better my living situation ~ but I am not in the category where I need to cut back on eating out and buying clothes. I am pinching my pennies as much as possible.

    It would be great to have daily tips and/or a bootcamp aimed at those of us who are already in the frugal-but-strapped mom/single-mom category. I would love to read it, or write it for that matter.

    In my bracket, the stacks are against us, but I am sure there are ways we can pull up and overcome the odds.

  • Kristin

    This article made me a little sad. But then I read Read about this issue.  (about mothers and low income.) That made me feel worse. In the comment sections on that particular aritcle, LV asked how they can help women in this issue. I wanted to address that. I am in that category. I want to know how I can better my living situation ~ but I am not in the category where I need to cut back on eating out and buying clothes. I am pinching my pennies as much as possible.

    It would be great to have daily tips and/or a bootcamp aimed at those of us who are already in the frugal-but-strapped mom/single-mom category. I would love to read it, or write it for that matter.

    In my bracket, the stacks are against us, but I am sure there are ways we can pull up and overcome the odds.

  • pc

    i wish learnvest would talk about how problematic and sexist many of these things are, instead of just putting them up there, with no comment. “low on agreeableness” ≠ mean! perhaps it just means you don’t let people walk all over you, or you may be more assertive than “pleasing” which is less socially acceptable in women. learnvest seems to send mixed messages to women on the “assertiveness” thing.

  • pc

    i wish learnvest would talk about how problematic and sexist many of these things are, instead of just putting them up there, with no comment. “low on agreeableness” ≠ mean! perhaps it just means you don’t let people walk all over you, or you may be more assertive than “pleasing” which is less socially acceptable in women. learnvest seems to send mixed messages to women on the “assertiveness” thing.

  • pc

    i wish learnvest would talk about how problematic and sexist many of these things are, instead of just putting them up there, with no comment. “low on agreeableness” ≠ mean! perhaps it just means you don’t let people walk all over you, or you may be more assertive than “pleasing” which is less socially acceptable in women. learnvest seems to send mixed messages to women on the “assertiveness” thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lisa-fei-li-sha-Fiacco/543960854 Lisa 菲丽莎 Fiacco

    It’s interesting to look at these things, but I’m kind of disappointed with the numbers.  Several items cite the median, which doesn’t really give any useful information. 

  • Anonymous

    Interesting statistics! The “weight” item didn’t make a lot of sense, though. Being ”25 pounds less than average” doesn’t make a woman “very thin,” as the article stated. The sad and unhealthy truth is that fully 64% of American women are overweight, and over half of these are obese! (http://win.niddk.nih.gov/statistics/#overweight). So women who are 25 pounds below average are still overweight, since average is about 40-lbs overweight. I’m about 50 pounds lighter than the average American woman, and it doesn’t even make me “very thin.” I’m just “kind of thin” (BMI = 20). Could you clarify whether a woman’s income is higher when she’s simply not quite as overweight as the average woman, or does she actually have to be “very thin” (i.e. something like 75-lbs below average) to accrue that advantage?

    • Anonymous

      Hi Jen, 

      Thanks for letting us clarify. The “average” referred to was the group norm for the population (20,000+) studied in the research.

      Hope you have a great weekend! 

    • Danabot

      I think you missed the point. Very thin is Hollywood/model thin. If you are that, then you make more. If you are average or normal weight and we all know what that is, despite the pressure to be Hollywood thin.  I look around and despite statistics, see most adult women around me at healthy normal weights, some very thin and some slightly overweight and some more overweight to heavy. The same for men. Women really shouldn’t be judged more for looks than brains, but we haven’t come as far as one would have hoped by now.

      • Anonymous

        Nope, I got the point. The article probably does mean “Hollywood thin.” But that sure isn’t 25-lbs below average. It’s far more. Just in your brief comment, you mentioned “average,” “normal,” and “healthy” as being equivalents. They should be, but they aren’t, because “average or normal weight” is no longer a healthy weight. Forgive me for going on about it, but this is an absolute epidemic and I don’t understand why women are not talking about it more. People have gotten so used to obesity that being 40-lbs overweight more or less looks fine to us these days. But it’s not fine. Our health is really at stake, and this crisis (that’s what it is) has greater implications for our wallets than simply the statistic that very slim women earn more.
        If you are honestly looking around and only seeing a few overweight women, you should bottle whatever environment you live in and sell it, because it is very rare, and it’s great! In reality, though, the CDC projects that by next year, only 1 in 4 American women will be a healthy weight, and the US Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health reports that 78% of African-American women are already overweight or obese (http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/content.aspx?ID=6456).

        I feel like these numbers should shock people and we should be talking about it way more. I know it’s gotten off-topic for this article, but I’m just really worried about our health, for all of our sake. Maybe LearnVest could do a separate, woman-focused article about the complex relationship between money and health.

        • http://twitter.com/kendallcorner kendallcorner

          Thanks for the info jen and gabreillekarol.  That little tidbit about weight really pissed me off when I read it. I also thought they were referring to “Hollywood thin.”  This made me self-conscious which then enraged me (to think a site aimed at women would be so nonchalant when discussing topics that many women have issues with like body image really got to me). 

        • http://twitter.com/kendallcorner kendallcorner

          But I also agree with Michelina that this article belongs in Cosmo. 
          These comments have no discussion from the author behind them and come
          across quite empty when you think about them. What about the fact that
          women who earn more probably have an easier time taking care of
          themselves?  That the higher pay makes it easier for them to maintain
          looks and weight, stop smoking, dye their hair blonde, maintain a good
          credit report, etc, etc.  Having higher pay can’t make you taller or
          left handed, but still.  A lot of these could be consequences and not
          causes.

        • Lana

          Who gives a crap about the weight of Black women?!  They make up less than 8% of the American population, and they are not expanding.

        • Lana

          Who gives a crap about the weight of Black women?!  They make up less than 8% of the American population, and they are not expanding.

  • Nina

    LOL I can see how this article will disgruntle a lot of women. Yes it’s sad, but it is what it is. It’s sexist- but guess what, sexism is still around, just like racism and all sorts of discrimination.

    These are very interesting statistics. I think there is definitely an element of truth to each of these statements, but they are not absolute truths. One certainly doesn’t have to meet every single one of these criteria in order to make good money, obviously.

    One thing is certain- this is an eye-opening article and I am appreciative of the bluntness of it.  I will never be tall, and being blonde is quite a stretch for this raven-haired petite powerhouse… but I can be assertive, go back to school, quit smoking, keep drinking…. ah EFF it. I’ll just be the feisty person that I am and kick some butt.

    • pc

      yeah, LOL indeed. thank god my mother/grandmother didn’t just accept it, or i would’nt even be ALLOWED to work outside the home now. now i can, and for less money than men, still!

      i do agree with the part about them not being absolute truths though.

  • Katie

    I guess my question is this:  What hope does a 5’2″, brunette, less-than-attractive woman have in making it in the real world?  That’s what I’m facing.  I’m working on weight issue, as well as the higher education issue.  I’m slightly above 30 years of age, but am single (divorced) and have no children.

    • Kaya

      As a 5’4″ blonde not named Deborah, I have to say the assertive factor has helped me (and others I’ve observed) to the higher-earning bracket more than any of the others listed here (even though being able to drink whiskey with “the boys” hasn’t hurt, either). Men are assertive without ever risking being perceived as “bitchy”, it’s up to us to challenge the double-standard. I have no doubt in my mind that this has been the factor that added that extra figure to my salary.

  • nikki

    I guess this doesn’t apply to me.  I am blonde, German-American, single, no kids, college-educated, am a model/actress, slim, attractive, and cannot get arrested, ie, cannot land a job if my life depended on it.  So, I would love to know…what contradictory category do I belong in?? 

    • pete

      maybe the “people who don’t work” category. it’s kinda hard to be a top earner if you don’t even have a job…

    • Caren

      Time for pharmacy school

  • Michelina

    Like a lot of things I read on here (and I am reading LV less and less), this is just like “finance- light!” All the sweetness, no actual substance. I feel like this could be from Cosmo. This really has nothing to do with improving my bottom line. How much you want to bet that these elusive “high earners” do *not* read this kind of article?
    Sorry, LV, I wanted to like you, I really did.

  • nportian

    articles like this are interesting and fun. im glad i can find them somewhere.

  • ewagner

    Some of these stats are interesting, but I’m not sure I understand the point. There are lots of confounding factors that affect, say, why non-smokers, make more than smokers or why people who drink make more than people who don’t (i.e., education level, values, etc.) This article seems to imply that our salaries are based off of more than hard work, and on things such as whether we are tall, attractive, smoke, etc. But, it seems to me there are many other reasons why some of these women make less and it is dependent on other factors in their lives.

    • http://willisan.wordpress.com/ Kris

      The smoking point was net worth, not income.  Although if you look at cost of cigarettes and effects of any addictive behavior, I think someone could make a legitimate connection.

  • http://www.mangomoney.com Mango Money

    Well I just read these statistics out loud to some of my co-workers, both men and women, and there really wasn’t much we could argue with (though it seems a lot of people commenting had a different experience!) It’s human nature to favor “beautiful” and “youthful” looking people– men and women. They look healthier; they look like they could take the company further. And outside of work, we do the same (we are more likely to be friends with healthy-looking people; more likely to date or marry them, etc…)  

    In fact, the only thing we could really contest was the Westlake thing. While Westlake is a nice area, I highly doubt it is top in the country. It miiiighhtt be in the top ten or fifteen. Just wondering, where did you guys get that figure? Thanks for a great infographic!

    • Anonymous

      Too bad that most fortune 500 companies are run by fat old people. . . .

  • http://www.bmwysp.deviantart.com Jennifer Megan Varnadore

    Well….having more of a paycheck is definitely a reason to lose weight, huh? Ha ha.

  • Dudley2243

    Why I never let anyone call me Deb or Debbie and drink martinis.

    • Kay

      Shaken, not stirred? :-)

  • CollegeGirl

    Is there something like this for men?

  • Karenlboyd

    I’d read that the height correlation was only found in men. Is that not the case? 

  • readme8

    This is only true in the U.S.  In continents where people are not that tall and no blondes, earnings are higher based on merit and assertiveness,  height or hair color has nothing to do with it.

    • MomAndColleague

      OMG you’re so naive. Are you one of those people that dislikes one other group so much (the US?) that you think all other groups are without imperfection? Sadly, superficial prejudice is way too pernicious *in every country* to be gotten rid of just by lacking blondes and tall people. I lived in Japan, where superficial appearances are distinctly less varied than here in the States. It doesn’t matter a bit. People find plenty of other superficial things to judge others by, whether preferentially or pejoratively. By the way, the United States is not the only country in the world with tall people or blondes. The US is also not a continent.

  • Binki12312

    I think it’s amazing how these women have a career plus raise children! I still have not figured out there secret. If the child is in daycare all day and well into the evening are they raising there children or the daycare?

    • MomAndColleague

      I think for many women the “secret” of a multi-faceted adult life began with a childhood love of learning, leading to a mature desire for many types of life experiences. You sound like a native English speaker, but your grammar and spelling are so bad that it makes me think you may not be very curious or interested in learning. If so, it wouldn’t be surprising if the general success of working professionals, who also happen to be mothers, were unfathomable to you.

      • Alexander

        Wow, “Mom and Colleague”, that was a judgmental reply. Part of being successful is being gracious, not slamming someone asking an innocent question. I think she may have actually wanted to learn from you, but you are  obviously too far above her.

        • Lbob

          Doubt it.  Rudely judgemental people usually are deficient.  I like people who speak, ask and put themselves out there.  Now, that’s style!

  • Binki12312

    I think it’s amazing how these women have a career plus raise children! I still have not figured out there secret. If the child is in daycare all day and well into the evening are they raising there children or the daycare?

  • Binki12312

    I think it’s amazing how these women have a career plus raise children! I still have not figured out there secret. If the child is in daycare all day and well into the evening are they raising there children or the daycare?

  • Lcshowah

    Unusual slant on characteristics we may not consider. I found it fun & enlightening!

  • Thetinwaitingroom

    One note on the Asian income statistic from an Asian American studies major…While the higher household earnings statistic is true, it’s not always adjusted to factor in how many people are generating income for the family. For some Asian American families, there can be more than just the one or two people with jobs, especially if the family is multi-generational. Cost of living also plays a part in determining income-if you live in San Francisco, for example, your income will have to be quite high just to rent an apartment! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Heather-Ferrante-Cathrall/1093517143 Heather Ferrante Cathrall

    That was a fun read!  It won’t change my views on anything and there are likely cofounding factors, but it was enjoyable to read and see how these types of things can affect wages

  • D Waskow

    I don’t know too many blonde Asian women named Deborah in Texas. Just saying…

  • Anonymous

    Ha!  A lot of this is anecdotal and not actually done through any type of quantitative study.  Fun ideas, but not really scientifically sound.

  • Anonymous

    Haha, interesting.

  • Runfaster50

    sounds like barbie.

  • Uvaalum2003

    I think this piece highlights statistics misused.  When you isolate every component like that, you get nonsensical results.  People from affluent neighborhoods, who are Asian and below weight are all correlated with a push for more education.