Women’s Wages

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Apr 21, 2012    •    649 Views

I just learned that April 17 was Equal Pay Day. Assuming that the average woman earns 22 percent less than the average man, she would have to work until mid-April to equal his pay.

For women’s pay statistics, I like to look at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). In a recent paper, they say the gap is 17.8 percent because a typical woman’s median weekly earnings are $684 while for men, $832.

Calling it “occupational segregation,” the IWPR reports that jobs we associate with women pay less than “male occupations.” For example, female secretaries earn $651 a week and even that is $16 less than their male counterparts. Similarly, female cashiers earn $373 weekly and male cashiers, $411. You can see that in lower paying “female” jobs, still men earn more. (All amounts are for median weekly earnings.)

For the wage gap in occupations dominated by men, the IWPR shows that although the wages are higher, again, women take home less. The median weekly earnings for female drivers/sales workers/truck drivers is $511 a week. A male in the same category? $712. Female janitors/building cleaners? $418. Male janitors/building cleaners? $514. Female CEOs? $1464. Male CEOs? $2122.

Focusing on the wage gap for professional women, Harvard economists Clauda Goldin and Lawrence Katz cite children as the reason because women take more time off for child rearing and that time off decreases their lifetime earnings. Even women with career continuity tend to select lower paying specialties like general practitioners rather than neurosurgeons or salaried in-house council rather than a high pressure law firm. And, for working mothers with an MBA, 15 years after graduation, the gender pay gap is 25%.

Super Freakonomics tells us that women are subject to greater pay discrimination for being obese or having bad teeth.

The Bottom Line: Supply and demand for men and women differ in labor markets.

If you would enjoy reading more about the gender pay gap, the occupational charts are fascinating in the IWPR report. For a lighter approach,  the Freakonomics blog quotes Goldin and Katz. But, if you prefer seeing their conclusions firsthand, you can look at one of their papers here.

And finally, an interesting fact: It matters where you live. Washington, D.C. has the smallest wage gap while Wyoming has the largest. This Huffington Post article tells more.

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