There Is No Gender Wage Gap

5,856,219 Views
Mar 6, 2017

Is there a gender wage gap? Are women paid less than men to do the same work? Christina Hoff Sommers, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, explains the data.

A comprehensive study by feminist organization AAUW found that the supposed 23% gender wage gap is a myth.

  • In 2012, the American Association of University Women, a feminist organization, published the results of a study on gender wage gaps and showed that, after accounting for a wide range of factors, the supposed wage gap shrank to a 6.6 percent difference, not the supposed 23 percent difference.View Source
  • Christina Hoff Sommers notes that a Department of Labor analysis of more than 50 peer-reviewed papers found “the so-called wage gap is mostly, perhaps entirely, an artifact of the different choices men and women make.”View Source
  • Related reading: “No, Women Don’t Make Less Money Than Men” – Christina Hoff SommersView Source
  • WATCH: “The Myth of the Gender Wage Gap” – Christina Hoff SommersView Source

The Department of Labor concluded that the gender wage gap is closer to 4.8 percent – far from the supposed 23% claimed by feminists.

  • A 2009 study by the Department of Labor concluded that, after controlling for a wide range of factors, the supposed wage gap shrank to a range of 4.8 to 7 cents.View Source
  • Christina Hoff Sommers notes that, “No competent labor economist takes the 23-cent wage gap injustice claim seriously.”View Source
  • Related reading: “No, Women Don’t Make Less Money Than Men” – Christina Hoff SommersView Source
  • WATCH: “The Myth of the Gender Wage Gap” – Christina Hoff SommersView Source

Much of the “gender wage gap” is explained by academic choices. More men chose higher-paying college majors than women.

  • Among the top ten highest-paying college majors, men dominate in all but one. Among the top ten lowest-paying college majors, women dominate in all but one, thus setting themselves on a trajectory for lower-paying careers.View Source
  • Christina Hoff Sommers notes that a Department of Labor analysis of more than 50 peer-reviewed papers found “the so-called wage gap is mostly, perhaps entirely, an artifact of the different choices men and women make.”View Source
  • WATCH: “The Myth of the Gender Wage Gap” – Christina Hoff SommersView Source

The supposed “23-cent” difference between men and women’s pay is bogus, calculated without any of the relevant factors included.

  • The supposed 23 percent difference in pay between genders is calculated by comparing the average earnings of all men to the average earnings of all women.View Source
  • When all relevant factors are included in the analysis – differences in occupation, job position, education level, job tenure, hours worked per week, etc. – the 23-cent difference all but disappears.View Source
  • WATCH: “The Myth of the Gender Wage Gap” – Christina Hoff SommersView Source

Men make more money than women because more of them make more lucrative career choices.

  • Men are more likely than women to choose higher-paying occupations, including ones that are more stressful, dangerous, undesirable, and require weekend and evening work hours.View Source
  • Christina Hoff Sommers notes that a Department of Labor analysis of more than 50 peer-reviewed papers found “the so-called wage gap is mostly, perhaps entirely, an artifact of the different choices men and women make.”View Source
  • WATCH: “The Myth of the Gender Wage Gap” – Christina Hoff SommersView Source
  • Related reading: “No, Women Don’t Make Less Money Than Men” – Christina Hoff SommersView Source

Inconvenient fact for the “gender wage gap” narrative: unmarried women earn more than unmarried men.

  • According to recent data from the Census Bureau, childless women between the ages of 22 and 30 earn more than childless men of the same age. In fact, in some cities, such as Atlanta, childless women make as much as 121% more than their male peers. Women between the ages of 25 and 34 also have higher rates of educational attainment for bachelor’s degrees than their male peers.View Source
  • WATCH: “The Myth of the Gender Wage Gap” – Christina Hoff SommersView Source
  • Related reading: “No, Women Don’t Make Less Money Than Men” – Christina Hoff SommersView Source

If, for the same work, women make only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, why don’t businesses hire only women?  Wages are the biggest expense for most businesses. So, hiring only women would reduce costs by nearly a quarter – and that would go right to the bottom line. Don’t businesses want to be profitable? Or, are they just really bad at math?

Well, actually, it’s the feminists, celebrities and politicians spreading this wage gap myth who have the math problem. 

Here’s why:

The 77-cents-on-the-dollar statistic is calculated by dividing the median earnings of all women working full-time by the median earnings of all men working full-time. In other words, if the average income of all men is, say, 40,000 dollars a year, and the average annual income of all women is, say, 30,800 dollars, that would mean that women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. 30,800 divided by 40,000 equals .77.

But these calculations don’t reveal a gender wage injustice because it doesn’t take into account occupation, position, education or hours worked per week.

Even a study by the American Association of University Women, a feminist organization, shows that the actual wage gap shrinks to only 6.6 cents when you factor in different choices men and women make. And the key word here is “choice.” The small wage gap that does exist has nothing to do with paying women less, let alone with sexism; it has to do with differences in individual career choices that men and women make.

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Labor released a paper that examined more than 50 peer-reviewed studies and concluded that the oft-cited 23 percent wage gap “may be almost entirely the result of individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”  Well, let’s look at some of those choices.

Georgetown University compiled a list of the five best-paying college majors, and the percentage of men or women majoring in those fields:

Number 1 best-paying major: Petroleum Engineering: 87% male
Number 2: Pharmaceutical Sciences: 48% male
3: Mathematics and Computer Science: 67% male
4: Aerospace Engineering: 88% male
5: Chemical Engineering: 72% male

Notice that women out-represent men in only one of the five top-paying majors – by only a few percentage points.

Now consider the same study's list of the five worst paying college majors:

Number 1: Counseling and Psychology: 74% female
Number 2: Early Childhood Education: 97% female
3: Theology and Religious Vocations: 66% male
4: Human Services and Community Organization: 81% female
5: Social Work: 88% female       

Here, it’s the women who lead in all but one category. Even within the same profession, men and women make different career choices that impact how much money they make. Take nursing, where male nurses on the whole earn 18% more than female nurses. The reason? Male nurses gravitate to the best-paying nursing specialties, they work longer hours, and disproportionately find jobs in cities with the highest compensation.

Now, here’s how one expert on nursing compensation, Professor Linda Aiken of the University of Pennsylvania, sums up the data: “Career choices and educational differences explain most, if not all, the gender gap in nursing.”

The Department of Labor paper concluded that once these differences are accounted for across all professions, the unexplained wage gap is somewhere between 4.8 and 7 percent – almost identical to the 6.6 percentage gap found by the AAUW.

But why is there any gap at all? No one knows for sure, as both the AAUW and the Labor Department concede. There are so many variables that drive wages that no single study can cover them all. Few wage gap studies control for variables such as dangerous work environment; men are vastly overrepresented, for example, on oil rigs. And here’s another variable: men are more willing and able to work long hours without advance notice. 

According to Harvard economist Claudia Goldin, even if two lawyers have the same education and same specialty and work the same number of hours – firms pay more to someone who is willing to always be “on call” and ready to be in the office when the firm needs them, as opposed to wanting a more regular schedule. This isn’t sexism, it’s just common sense.

With more realistic categories and definitions, whatever wage gap remains would certainly narrow to point of vanishing.

So it seems that business leaders aren’t bad at math simply because they don’t only hire women. Those who claim that for the same work women earn 77 cents on the dollar compared to men, on the other hand, are not merely bad at math – but at telling the truth.

I’m Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute for Prager University.

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