Gender wage gap. Again.

This is getting ridiculous.  So, HuffPo links to this piece saying that Republican pundit Alex Castellanos was caught out lying about this gap on the Maddow show when CNN took an impartial look.  Umm, not actually so.  Notice that not all that subtle conflation of distinct statistics:

CNN ran a package on the subject, and said that Castellanos’ claims that men make more money because they work more hours per week, and work in professions that pay higher wages, was inconsistent with data from the Census Bureau. Sylvester quoted a report that stated, “In 2010, the earnings of women who worked full time, year-round were 77 percent of that for men working full time, year-round, not statistically different from the 2009 ratio.”

Um, hello. Working “full-time, year round” is not the same as working the same hours.  Castellanos in response links to this WSJ piece that nicely breaks things down.  To wit:

One stubborn fact of the labor market argues against the idea. That is the gender-hours gap, close cousin of the gender-wage gap. Most people have heard that full-time working American women earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. Yet these numbers don’t take into account the actual number of hours worked. And it turns out that women work fewer hours than men.

The Labor Department defines full-time as 35 hours a week or more, and the “or more” is far more likely to refer to male workers than to female ones. According to the department, almost 55% of workers logging more than 35 hours a week are men. In 2007, 25% of men working full-time jobs had workweeks of 41 or more hours, compared with 14% of female full-time workers. In other words, the famous gender-wage gap is to a considerable degree a gender-hours gap.

The main reason that women spend less time at work than men—and that women are unlikely to be the richer sex—is obvious: children. Today, childless 20-something women do earn more than their male peers. But most are likely to cut back their hours after they have kids, giving men the hours, and income, advantage.

My response to this is: good for women!  Too many men work to hard and shortchange their families.  Women have their priorities in the right place.  I could sure as hell be in an occupational position making more money, but I would not then have the time to spend taking care of the four crazy nuts (okay three, Sarah’s not very nutty.  Yet.)  Now look, I’m not going to deny for a second that there isn’t very real gender discrimination in the workplace, but this $.77 way over-states and serves to take the focus away from the real issues– different working patterns and different societal expectations for men and women– to focus on a bogeyman issue of flat out wage discrimination for the same work.  I don’t doubt that happens some, but nowhere near the 23% level.  Men get paid more because they work more hours in more lucrative jobs.  That’s going to get you 95% of the way or so there.  Should we worry about the other 5%?  Yes, actually.  But let’s be honest about it.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

2 Responses to Gender wage gap. Again.

  1. Ted Markelson says:

    It’s easy to cast doubt as you have done, but are you aware that there is such a thing as the adjusted wage gap, and guess what? Even accounting for hours worked, there’s STILL a gender wage gap. What a bozo; I feel bad for your students.

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