The Gender Wage Gap — Revisiting a Persistent Feminist Myth

Just over three years ago the Wall Street Journal reported:

The earning power of young single women has surpassed that of their male peers in metropolitan areas around the U.S., a shift that is being driven by the growing ranks of women who attend college and move on to high-earning jobs.

In 2008, single, childless women between ages 22 and 30 were earning more than their male counterparts in most U.S. cities, with incomes that were 8% greater on average, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data released Wednesday by Reach Advisors, a consumer-research firm in Slingerlands, N.Y.

Since then, it’s only gotten worse for men and the updated (2012) figures tell us:

These findings held true for 147 of the largest 150 cities in the US. The best news came out of Atlanta and Memphis, where women in this demographic group are earning up to 21% more than men. The same higher earnings trend for women exists in other large cities including New York (17%), San Diego (15%) and Los Angeles (12%), and even smaller urban areas such as Raleigh-Durham, NC (14%) and Charlotte, NC (14%).

You’d think feminist leaders, advocates and organizations would celebrate that young women are succeeding.  That these clear and unambiguous results would be acknowledged.  And yet we still get articles like this from just last week:

Women have made tremendous gains in education, employment and earnings in the past 50 years, but there is still a persistent gender pay gap. Even young working women continue to lag behind men.

Among recent college graduates, full-time working women on average earn 82% of what their male peers earn, according to a study released today by the AAUW (American Association of University Women). The report is based on 2009 U.S. Department of Education statistics.

Sadly the very partisan AAUW refuses to look at the actual data that says young women are doing better than their male contemporaries, or account for actual causes in wage disparity, which includes:

  1. Men are far more likely to choose careers that are more dangerous, so they naturally pay more.
  2. Men are far more likely to work in higher-paying fields and occupations (by choice).
  3. Men are far more likely to take work in uncomfortable, isolated, and undesirable locations that pay more.
  4. Men work longer hours than women do.
  5. Men are more likely to take jobs that require work on weekends and evenings and therefore pay more.
  6. Even within the same career category, men are more likely to pursue high-stress and higher-paid areas of specialization.
  7. Women business owners make less than half of what male business owners make, which, since they have no boss, means it’s independent of discrimination.

Think about #7 for a minute.   Nobody is forcing women into these businesses.  These women have made choices and their choices have caused them to earn less.   And this gets us to the US Department of Labor’s observation when they studied this issue in 2009:

“This study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.

Which is something that has been observed and argued since the 1990s, though it hasn’t been a popular position that when women’s choices are accounted for, the gap becomes so small that it could be moot.


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