The Wage Gap (That Isn’t)

According to many feminists today, one of the biggest issues facing women is the so-called “wage gap,” or the notion that women are making less (the number quoted ranges from 65 to 81 cents on the dollar) than men for doing the exact same work.  Interestingly, this is a myth that simply refuses to die despite refutation by a wide variety of economists including notable feminist researchers.  (Seriously, when someone you know has a stated ideological bias in finding that something exists and even they grudgingly admit that there’s no evidence for it you’ve got to concede the point.  It’s kind of like the Pope admitting there is no God.)

Most commonly cited is a US Census Bureau statistic (quoting as paraphrased by a sociology textbook here) which claims that “In 2008, women who were employed year-round and full-time earned $35,745; men $46,367. Women still earn only 77 percent of what men earn—progress since the early 1970s when women earned 63 percent of men’s wages, but it’s a large and persistent wage gap nonetheless. Furthermore, even with the same levels of education, women earn less than men (again, comparing those working full time, year-round). In 2008, women with a college degree earned $47,018; men earned $65,800—a 71 percent gap (U.S. Census Bureau 2010).” 

Let me first VERY clearly state:

There’s no argument that if you take the wages of all women and all men working “full-time” and add them up, you’ll find that men make more than women.  However, the issue isn’t the idea that men make more money than women, it’s the idea that this is caused by discrimination against women in the workplace.

Understand the difference?

There’s no debate that women on average make less money than men.  This isn’t even a matter of contention.  However, that’s also not what the “wage gap” school of thought actually claims.  Let’s look at it again from the top: the notion that women make less than men for doing the exact same work.  To draw this conclusion from the US census is to presume that on average men and women do the same work.  This simply isn’t the case.  Women don’t work at the same jobs, women don’t work the same number of “full-time” hours and women don’t take the same career paths as men.

Once we remove this assumption, we realize that the statistic doesn’t prove anything at all!  (At least with regards to a “wage gap.”)

For example, studies show that men working “full-time” average three to five more hours per week than women working “full-time”.  Just based on that, we should see about a twelve percent disparity.  Secondly, women on average take two maternity leaves, meaning a man and woman working at the same company for, say, fifteen years likely don’t have equal real seniority.  (The woman took two maternity leaves adding to somewhere between half a year and two years, meaning that while he’s been working there for 15 years, she’s only actually been there for 13 or 14.)  Also, extra hours make for extra experience, and perceived seniority: if he worked 12% more hours than her that’s almost another two extra years of seniority.  If we combine the two, the difference could be as high as 13 years of seniority to 17, a four-year gap which depending on the industry could easily amount to a few percentage points wage-wise.  In fact, according to a University of Wyoming study it goes even further that this: 6 years out of school women have worked 30% less than their male counterparts, and by 16 years it’s 50% as much.  If the average age of workplace entry is 20 or 21, by age 36 or 37, near the prime of most people’s careers women average literally half the effective seniority.

Similarly, men are statistically more willing to relocate for work, work weekends or overtime when required, go on trips for business, et cetera.  This makes for a more flexible and by extension more valuable worker, leading to a higher paycheck.  These are just a few of many factors.

Now, even if we break it up by education level, men make more.  Why?  There’s a big disparity in major.  For example, most English majors are women, most engineering majors are men, engineers make more than English majors.  However, if we do it by education level they’re both just “B.A. *something*”, and we find women make less than men.  If we instead compare male and female engineers, or male and female English majors we don’t see the same disparity.

Basically, once we remove the outside factors, the gap disappears.  Women who make the same choices as men earn the same amount as men, indicating that the pay gap is all about choices, not gender.  People are getting equal pay for equal work, it’s just that women aren’t doing equal work, they’re doing different work….and less of it.

Now, I wouldn’t expect you to take this on my say-so, but the wage gap as stated has repeatedly been debunked by economists of all stripes, including as mentioned avowed feminist scholars.  I’ve placed a number of examples below.  The third was prepared by a professor of economics, the fifth is from the National Center for Policy Analysis (a non-profit think-tank), the sixth is indirectly derived by a book written by Warren Farrell (who holds a PhD in Political Science, and has done fairly considerable research on this and similar issues, though he doesn’t necessarily count as a scholarly source in this case), and the last is a report prepared for the US DOL by a noted research group.  There are also two videos which explain things in a slightly more 

Here are a couple citations of various levels of scholarship:

Kay Hymowitz
Breakdown by major.
A short video explanation.
A second video.
NCPA examination.
Summary of outside factors.
Report prepared for US Department of Labor.
Cities Where Women out earn Male Counterparts
Do Women Earn Less Than Men?
Gender Pay Gap “Down To Women’s Lifestyle Choices”
It’s Time We End the Equal Pay Myth
Pay Gap Is Now Running the Other Way?
The 15 Jobs Where Women Earn More Than Men
The Gender Pay Gap is A Complete Myth
The Is No Male-Female Wage Gap
The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap (part 234567)
Wage Gap Between Men & Women

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