Working for Women’s Equality

Thursday, August 5, 2010 \PM\.\Thu\.

Take the wages of every male employed in the U.S. and divide by the number of men employed. Now do the same for females in the U.S. Perform these calculations, and what you will find is that the average female wage in the United States is about 78% of the average male wage. This doesn’t mean, of course, that a woman will get paid seventy eight cent for every dollar paid to a man for the same job, though it’s often phrased that way in popular discourse. If it were really true that an employer could get a woman to do the same job at the same level for 78% of the wages, some entrepreneur would long ago have started hiring only women and cleaned his competitors’ clocks. Rather, the difference is largely due to different career choices made by men as opposed to women. Men, for example, tend to work more in risky professions, and tend to work longer hours, whereas women are more likely to cease being employed for extended periods of time in order to raise or have kids (for details, see Warren Farrell’s book Why Men Earn More).

For decades liberal denial of this fact has led to some remarkably silly policy proposals, such as that the government should determine how much every job is *really* worth and force employers to pay accordingly.  An article by David Leonhardt this week in the New York Times, however, indicates that progressives may be ever so slowly to accept reality on the point. Writes Leonhardt:

A recent study of business school graduates from the University of Chicago found that in the early years after graduating, men and women had “nearly identical labor incomes and weekly hours worked.” Men and women also paid a similar career price for taking off or working part time. Women, however, were vastly more likely to do so.

As a result, 15 years after graduation, the men were making about 75 percent more than the women. The study — done by Marianne Bertrand, Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz — did find one subgroup of women whose careers resembled those of men: women who had no children and never took time off.

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