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October 30, 2006

Good News/Bad News

The good news: The gap between male and female salaries is narrowing, with women now making .81 cents for every dollar a man does.

The bad news: That's because salaries for males are dropping.

Update: Here's a dissenting view arguing that "women didn't start entering the labor force at the same level as men until the 70s. As a result, there has, historically, been a greater number of older skilled men in the labor force than older skilled women (just because of promotions by seniority)." Thus, the wage gap isn't sexism (overt or institutionalized), but merely structural. Maybe. On the other hand, my impression is that this data generally compares men and women in the same positions, and the differential remains. I'm sure some of my wise and brilliant readers know more about this than I do, however.

Update 2: Here's all you could ever want or need to know on the issue. Highly recommended.

October 30, 2006 | Permalink


Welcome to the world of book publishing, where they've been paying men like women for a half-century.

Posted by: Jimmm | Oct 30, 2006 3:22:33 PM

Wingnut spin: See! If we just kept women in the home, men would earn more!

Posted by: Jeff Fecke | Oct 30, 2006 3:46:40 PM

Well, I poked around the source site a bit and did not find where salaries were compared by type of employment and time in the workforce.

You see, time in the workforce is much more important than age of the worker. Historically the big differences between male and female wages, for people of the same age, could be explained by the incredible difference in time in the workforce.

Getting more specific, uninterrupted time in the workforce is a large factor, that seems to be ignored when the call of 'unfairness' is shouted.

Add on top of those, uninterrupted time in field of work is pretty important too.

Of course, none of this is important if a writer wishes to imagine whatever they wish into a graph that is clearly labled as accounting only for chronological age, sex and wages.

Since Dr. Thomas Sowell did some work on this in the early 1980s one could examine that and see if this is a continuation of that trend. Back then he found women and minorities to be doing much better than the way they were being portrayed in the press.

Only had a short time to look before real work interrupted me. Back to that.

Posted by: Guy Montag | Oct 30, 2006 4:00:43 PM

Well, I poked around the source site a bit and did not find where salaries were compared by type of employment and time in the workforce.

Well, Guy, that's because none of that is important. What is important is that everyone is paid the same regardless of education, talent, experience, etc. That's why it's just terrible that those hoodies who didn't want to go to high school are not making the same as those who chose to apply themselves.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Oct 30, 2006 4:23:29 PM


As usual, rightly said Fred :)

If all firms adopted the TNR model we would all be equal.

Does anybody know if The Nation or The Worker's World Daily pays better than Wal*Mart?

Posted by: Guy Montag | Oct 30, 2006 10:37:25 PM

I don't know the US figures but I do the UK.

Men and women in the same jobs are pretty much paid the same. There are a few exceptions (where, for example, male physicality leads to higer wages for manual labour) but they are easily understandable.

The calculations of the gender pay gap are simple averages of everyone in the workforce. So the historical fact that women were really only entering the labour force in large numbers from the 70s on does indeed mean that at the older end of the labour force, there are indeed more men.

The second point, that it is time in the labour force, uninterupted time that can cause the gender pay gap also seems valid. For the UK there's no (perhaps 2 or 3 %ge points) gap in those 20-29. Average age at first birth is 28.5 now or so. Then in the 30s the gap widens appreciably and then begins to fall again.

This is consistent with women taking time out of the labour force to have and raise children, when returning they are getting lower wages as their experience is less.

Whether this should be so in a moral sense is another matter.

There's also the point that many women, when they do return to work, like to work part time. Part timers get less per hour of work than full timers. I was outraged when the Equal Opportunities Commission compared part time female pay to full time male to measure the gender pay gap.

Posted by: Tim Worstall | Oct 31, 2006 6:19:09 AM

Tim Worstall,

In my 12 years experience in US Government Contracting, the way the government scores the resume of a contractor brings a lot of the "time in field" and education items into play.

Several years ago I replaced a woman (who I never met) in a position supporting the Army Material Command. I made about 1/3 to 1/2 of what she made. Same job, same duties.

The reason why was because the government would not pay the firm I was working for the same that they paid a person with more years in defense contracting and a "real" Master's degree (mine is just an approximate equiv. from an Army school). Therefore, I was not paid the same amount as her. A small factor is that the firm I worked for did not pay it's employees as high a percentage of their billable hours as others (like the two firms I have been with since).

So, here we have a real world example of unequal pay for exactly the same work. Actualy, I traveled a lot more than she did in that job too, so I got lower pay for more work.

Um, before the flakes turn my comments into some imagined complaint, there is no complaint up there. I know the deal and now that I have a lot more experience, work in my specific degree area, switched firms and improved my skillset I get paid a lot better.

Posted by: Guy Montag | Oct 31, 2006 10:52:48 AM

I'm assuming you meant 81 cents, not .81 cents.

Posted by: lucidity | Oct 31, 2006 12:04:58 PM

Well... it may be true that people in equal places in the hierarchy are paid about equally without regard to sex, but that doesn't count for much if people's positions within the hierarchy are determined by sex. A store in which people are internally promoted from being clerks to being supervisors, for instance, where male and female clerks are paid the same and male and female supervisors are paid the same, but in which male clerks are almost always the ones promoted to be supervisors controlling for objective qualifications does not pay men and women the same amount.

Posted by: Julian Elson | Nov 2, 2006 6:18:05 PM

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