How big is the actual gender wage gap?


Salon gets wonderfully thorough: At the start of the week, we were puzzled by some of the work we found at Salon.

Our most significant puzzlement concerned a piece by Katie McDonough. McDonough started this-a-way concerning the gender wage gap:
MCDONOUGH (3/23/14): There is something bizarre about celebrating the “top five states for women’s salaries” when women who live in these five states are still making, on average, 90 percent or less of what their male colleagues earn. It’s not wrong, it’s just … strange.

Women in the District of Columbia came out on top, according to an analysis of government and other data from personal finance site NerdWallet, but that means that they make 90.1 percent of what their male colleagues bring home for similar work. Women in Maryland came in second, making 85.3 percent; women in New York rounded out the top five with earnings around 83.9 percent of their male peers.

The gender wage gap is still a real thing in 2014. Women, on average, make 77 cents on the dollar. That gap is bigger and more financially devastating for black and Latina women; trans women are incredibly vulnerable to pay discrimination, as well as other forms of job discrimination.
“The gender wage gap is still a real thing,” McDonough wrote, making a perfectly accurate statement. “Women, on average, make 77 cents on the dollar.”

You may note that she didn’t say “for the same work.” But she said “for similar work” in the preceding paragraph.

We’ll guess that this topic may get lots of play in the coming year. Ideally, that will give us a chance to get more clear on the way the wage gap works.

In those, her first three paragraphs, McDonough was repeating familiar claims. In these, her next two paragraphs, the Salonster began to fight:
MCDONOUGH (continuing directly): And since I am so incredibly tired of hearing that the gender wage gap has been “debunked,” let’s direct everyone’s attention to a report from the Government Accountability Office on how the pay gap persists even after one takes into account part-time work and women working fewer hours or taking time off to raise children or care for family members. (All lifestyle “choices,” by the way, that are deeply informed by cultural norms that shoulder women with a majority of caregiving responsibilities, but I digress or whatever!)

After doing a quantitative analysis of a nationally representative longitudinal data set, the GAO found that while many factors influence wage disparities, when you remove all of these differences, women still earn around 80 percent of men’s wages.
“Even after accounting for key factors that affect earnings,” the report notes, “our model could not explain all of the difference in earnings between men and women.” (For more on this, Bryce Covert has a wonderfully thorough piece over at the Nation.)
McDonough says she’s incredibly tired of hearing the gender wage gap debunked. In the interest of debunking that debunking, she cites a GAO study (from 2003) which said the gender wage gap is 80 percent (or was in the year 2000).

She recommended Covert’s “wonderfully thorough piece,” which, in its wonderfully thorough way, restricted itself to that one study when it came to the size of the gap.

We’re not experts on this topic. We’d like to understand it better. For that reason, McDonough’s piece sent us clicking around.

We’re still not experts on the gap. That said, in the next few days, we’ll post some of what we’ve found.

Two guesses: This topic may get large play this year. If it does, the new Salon may plow some old or new ground.


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  3. Can't wait to see it. U.S. Census Bureau says:

    "The changes in the real median earnings of men and women who worked full time, year- round between 2011 and 2012 were not statistically significant. In 2012, the median earnings of women who worked full time, year-round ($37,791) was 77 percent of that for men working full time, year-round ($49,398) ─ not statistically different from the 2011 ratio. The female-to-male earnings ratio has not experienced a statistically significant annual increase since 2007."

  4. The correct term would be "job gap" if it's anything, but that doesn't have the same sex appeal as wage gap, which makes it sound like women aren't getting equal pay for equal work.

    But it does keep the rubes and the tribal ones preoccupied and distracted, so any public debate will be meaningless.

    1. There was also a "job gap" between slaves and plantation owners.

    2. Just like a tribalist to drop the really big R bomb.

  5. OMB

    It will be fascinating to see your report. Old claims may turn out to be oversold or bogus. But if you can be believed, it sounds like the impending review could contain real information, based upon new sources.

    We think you should find that the US Census Bureau numbers are a report of self reported annual gross wage income of those who report working full time. Comparing those numbers, which produces the 77 cents on the dollar figure so often cited, does not measure equal pay for equal work.

    Wow! Will this review include real information about the real wages paid to men and women doing the same job?

    Obviously, we don’t know the answer to that. But it sounds like that could be possible, given the clicking you say you are doing.

    That could all be piddle, of course. The review could be a big dud.

    What you will report finding, we predict is, like the finding of Chris Christie's million dollar taxpayer funded investigation of himself, nothing that causes you to find any wrongdoing in your previous writing on this subject.

    But we don't know. Anything is possible. We look forward to seeing an old dog do a new trick.


    1. Yes, I join you in that prediction in which our resident non-expert, after doing all that clicking around, will simply proclaim that "we can't possibly know" thus the Census Bureau data is "misleading" and he is "right."

      And I am sure his exhaustive review will include the words of the 2000 Democratic Nominee for President of the United States, who cited a 73 cents on the dollar figure, and that is How He Got There.

    2. When BOB does his clicking, will he find any Gore references to the gap in speeches or just look in formal campaign literature? If he does the latter we can be sure he will find more complete disclaimers of the causes of the gap. This will allow him to say Gore was not trying to mislead, just as Gore was not saying he invented the internet by saying he took the initiative to create it when he was speaking extemporaneously.


    3. I agree with KZ. These posts from BOB are not important don't reveal any truths.

    4. Bob reveals many truths. He also raises important questions.

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      Thanks to Bob I know black kids are doing better in school despite everyone being on the backs of their teachers and I should avoid Hawking despite what critics say.

    5. Exactly! Nothing to see here. Just a failed comic jealous of others. Maddow does great!!!!

    6. You must not read well. According to KZ, Maddow is just what Bob could have been with better career management.

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  7. Think of how hard business fights rises in the minimum wage. Think of how mightily they struggle to automate tasks. Think of how hard they outsource high-paying jobs, and import cheap labor. If it were really cheaper to employ women than men, every man in the country would be laid off within the year.


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  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. I don’t think it’s right that woman have the other salary for the same work. But I don’t know how to change it. Also I don’t want to say about discrimination, because it won’t lead to any wise conclusion. I just want to recommend a good on-line service here that gives payday loans online. It’s not dependent on the gender, so you will happily take extra money for short period. You just need to fill in the application form and confirm your solvency by showing the month budget of income.

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