The Wage Gap Series, so far

  1. Different ways of measuring the pay gap

  2. Trends in the Wage Gap
  3. What Causes the Wage Gap?
  4. Myth: The pay gap only exists because men work so many more hours than women.
  5. The Motherhood Myth
  6. Myth: The pay gap only exists because women haven’t been in the workplace as long as men
  7. Myth: The best way to measure the pay gap is to consider only the young and the childless
  8. Myth: If women really got paid less for similar work, then employers would replace all of the male workers with female workers
  9. Some Evidence of Discrimination
  10. Myth: The Wage Gap Is Caused By Men’s Higher Pay For Dangerous Jobs
This entry posted in Economics and the like, Gender and the Economy. Bookmark the permalink. 

51 Responses to The Wage Gap Series, so far

  1. 1
    antigone says:

    I’m glad you’re planning to continue the series. It’s informative and useful, and I’m especially glad that you include references. I haven’t commented before because… I never do, but keep up the good work!

  2. 2
    Coalition of the Interested says:

    Don’t let our relative lack of comments keep you from posting on this subject. I for one am finding it very interesting and helpful (in an argument I got into with somebody last week about the Wage Gap).

    We might not be clamoring to comment but we do appreciate the posts. Thank you very much.

    More, more, more, more, more….

  3. 3
    april says:

    Oh, I agree – keep going on this one! This is something a lot of us tend to accept the most recent stats on without much regard for history or complexity. I plan to refer people to your series quite a bit in the future.

  4. 4
    Jenny says:

    I fourth the motion, please keep going.

    I find it very interestig and useful, I just don’t have much to add.

  5. 5
    Maggie says:

    again, agreed. i only discovered this blog recently (a few days before the wage gap series began) and i find this very interesting. especially because you address this topic by dispelling common myths and misconceptions. i think that is very important. good work.

  6. 6
    obeah says:

    Please continue… like Jenny, I don’t feel I have much to add, but I’ve been following the series avidly. (Probably should have commented to that effect before, but here it is now.)

  7. 7
    Jake says:

    Please keep posting. I’m not really responding, but I’m finding it very informative.

  8. 8
    Julia says:

    Please don’t stop!!
    I’ve got great new ammunition for my arguments!

  9. 9
    Darcy says:

    I, too, love the series. Very informative. I’m just not much of a poster ;)

  10. 10
    PinkDreamPoppies says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading them but have felt rather out-of-my-depth in responding to them (besides, I noticed that whatever counter-arguments were brought up in the threads were quickly rebutted by a new post). I’ve been enjoying reading all of them and would, in fact, be very interested in your compiling them into a single PDF file (or something) or letting me know when the series was over so I could do it for you. It’s been a very hand reference and it would be nice to have it all right there instead of having to search the archives for it.

  11. 11
    Ab_Normal says:

    I’m a brand new reader; please continue the series! I’ve been very fortunate to never experience gender-based wage discrimination, but I definitely need to know more about it.

  12. 12
    Ampersand says:

    Thansks, everyone. The series will be continuing for at least a few more installments. (The wage gap posts are reprints of some stuff I wrote a couple of years ago; I’m doing reprints because I’m currently in a time bind. But I’m going to run out of reprint material soon, and due to the aforementioned time bind I probably won’t be adding anything new to the series once I run out of reprints).

  13. 13
    Helen says:

    What they said – Keep it up. It seems everyone’s busy this month, for some reason – can’t be seasonal, cos we aussie bloggers live on the upside down part of the earth. Perhps the Busy planet is exerting its influence.

  14. 14
    Cleis says:

    I’d like to second Poppies’ request that the series be combined into a PDF file for easy reference. I’ve been referring people to it by word of mouth, but I’d like to link to it from my blog, too. (That’s simpler if it’s all together, but if that doesn’t happen, then I’ll just provide individual links.)

  15. 15
    Tishie says:

    Amp, I have been printing them out to use later! I’d love it too if they were in a PDF form or something. Anyway, I haven’t commented because this is something I don’t know much about, so I’m just taking it all in.

    I hear you about busy. Moving is busifying, ain’t it?

  16. 16
    andrew says:

    Well, the lurkers (I’m one) seem to like ‘em. :)

  17. 17
    Kerim Friedman says:

    This has been a great series! Don’t be down on the low response – even having this somewhere online is a valuable contribution. Just think of all the Google hits whenever someone wants to research this topic! Personally, I tend to catch up on these longer blog articles over the weekend.

  18. 18
    mrtek says:

    I have to admit, my economics background is compleatly self taught, so the technichal details are a little above me. On the other hand, every thing I have learned, especially in the labor market is that the cionventional wisdom in economic circles, (where most of the apologists for the wage gap seem to come from) is based on theories that have no real ties to reality.

    Until recently I was an occasional lurker on your blog. I have the pleasure of being married to a very strong woman who is intolerant in the extream of the sorts of issues that you discuss, so while I recognize them intellectually as extreamly important, I am inselated from dealing with the on a day to day basis, and so I have devoted my energies to reading about issues that more directly affect me and my family.

    I admire your work, and your dedication to it. while I have not felt the need to post comments, for the reasons enumerated above, I have become a much more regular reader here, BECUASE of this series. It has forced me to consider these issues t a much deeper level.

    Now, I am a late Baby Boomer. I grew up in the 70’s, and am still an idealistic liberal who strongly supports the idea that all of the sorts of issues have solutions, and that we MUST find those solutions. If you are preaching to the choir, when I read your work, and it still causes me to rethink the issue, than others, who have not spent their lives working to change these sorts of wrongs may be affected even more, and are likly to open their eyes to do something.

    It seems we are agree. The series is important, and informative. Please, contine it as long as you have more to add, and I would also like to see it consolidated in to one piece.

    Thank you.



    Tucson, Az.

  19. 19
    betsy says:

    oh, hurray!

    i am not good at explaining this sort of thing to people myself (i get to the “what are you, an idiot?” point far too quickly…), so i very much appreciate having well written, well researched things like this to point people at.

  20. 20
    lexapro says:

    agree with u

  21. 21
    lauren says:

    thanks so much for putting this series together…I’m working with several local women’s organizations to bring awareness of the wage gap issue to employers in WY & am astonished at some of the comments we’ve been getting … “women earn less because “we” pay them less” a state legislator, “women get paid less because they make stupid choices … they choose “women’s work … they become teachers, nurses, secretaries … stupid, stupid, stupid choices,a female mudlogger, & my favorite, “women earn less than men because they want to” a state legislator … YIKE!! This is a great series …

  22. 22
    Common Sense says:

    Follow the money and you will learn every time. —-I’ve studied wage gaps off and on for 20 years. When there is a real wage gap the female offended sue. In reality, when very closely studied, due to affirmative action, there is most often a reverse wage gap. Most wage gap suits are not successful because despite earnings differences, other factors more fully account for them. Males are not a protected category and it is more difficult for them to sue and get an award. Because of societal double standards, males know they would likely never get a montetary award if the offending company president got on the stand and proved they company purposely and for malicious motives underpaid men.
    The reason women seldom win wage gap suits and why the Dept of Labor has quit looking for them is simple. Every time they did an in depth analysis they found out that men and women act the same. It’s supply and demand. Following the money nearly always explains the difference. Males or females who are economically subsidized place less value on earning more money for themselves and show it by their actions at the workplace.
    The bottom line is that men earn most of the money because women value men who make the most money so men work harder at it. In the US, males make most of the money and women spend or have control or direct the spending of most of the money. In the US, women effectively spend as almost as much of what men earn as the men who earn it spend. It’s a huge subsidy. It’s economic fact. It works the same way for males that are subsiized by females. There is just far fewer dollars going female to male. Give anybody something and they will not work as hard to get more of it. Its true with anything. In the US, by far men earn cash and give it to women to spend, or direct the spending, effectively subsidizing. The proof is in advertising rates. Media shows that have the same % of the 18-49 female market have rates far greater than those who have equal % of male 18-49. TV shows and ads blatently glorify women and degrade males because they pander to female buyers.

    Follow the money. It works every time. People can spout all types of rhetoric. Follow the money trail and your undestanding will increase.

    Those of you who are now angry with this writing are angry because the truth grates on your feminist agenda. No one will ever be able to convince you of anything. Your minds made up , you’re just looking for selective antedotes to justify your anger at life. This author just put a dose of common sense reality into this sites pot of boiling bitterness.

  23. 23
    Ampersand says:

    Wow, Common Sense, you were doing so good! You went three whole paragraphs making actual arguments without any personal attacks. Then you had to go and screw it up with a final paragraph that consisted of nothing but personal attacks – too bad!

    In case you don’t know, the argument used in your final paragraph is known as an ad hominem, and amongst people who study logic and argumentation it’s considered a logical fallicy. It’s also rude – after all, I don’t go to your website and insult you, so why are you coming here and calling me “bitter” and close-minded?

    As for the rest of your post….

    You’re simply mistaken to imply that the federal government has quit looking at sex discrimination cases – just consider the current Wal-Mart suit, for one example. In this post, I list four other examples of recent Department of Labor actions against companies that practice sex discrimination.

    You’re also mistaken in your understanding of antidiscrimination law – men are just as much a “protected class” as women. The law doesn’t say “women are a protected class” – it says that “discrimination by sex is highly suspect.”

    You claim a lot of other facts, but don’t offer any links or documentation. When you do, I’ll take your claims more seriously.

    Finally, you seem unaware that in married couples where women do most of the shopping, it’s not as if the stuff she buys is for her exclusively while her husband and get have nothing. Generally, when women in families spend more, I’d suspect it’s because women are doing the labor of grocery shopping for the entire household – not because they’re spending more on themselves.

  24. 24
    Dan J says:

    Excellent job, Amp. I wish I could take it further but I don’t have the time or energy especially, as you said yourself, since no links or research were provided to back up Common’s points. One thing I would like to know, though: where are these ads that are degrading to men and glorifying to women? I don’t have cable, so maybe I’m just not seeing them. I just get crummy ol’ network shows and ads that blatantly and embarrassingly reinforce the patriarchal status quo.

  25. 25
    Niivala says:

    The wage gap is real. I saw it at my own workplace. Picture this: I get to do a human resources review – of individuals, their job descriptions, job titles – and pay. Lo and behold, I found a low-level clerk being paid far more than any of the top clerks. Far far more! I pointed out this anomaly to my boss. It turned out that the highly paid clerk in question had something none of the rest of the clerical sector had – XY chromosomes. After my boss gave me a feeble defense for this injustice, it was not long before I saw change (his conscience must have got to him): a huge 30% increase for the top clerical staff (the XY one remaining at his original rate)and another raise for most of the remaining clerical levels. Meanwhile, how long had we lost thousands of dollars in income because of the unfairness? I figure each and every workplace I’ve been in has structured work in similar unfair ways. We don’t always get to see it.

  26. 26
    Yolanda Currie says:


    I am Yolanda and I just wrote a paper on Wage Gap and Discrimination in the Workplace. My teacher really shot my paper down because he didn’t feel that I had enough real life evidence in my paper. I feel that there is still a significant difference in wages for men and women and I also find that there is a great deal of discrimination in the work place. Does any one have any suggestions on how I can reorganize my paper and give him concrete evidence that the wage gap still exist in the workplace?

    Thank you


  27. 27
    Rogue says:

    The gap exists; the cause is fuzzy. However, if men would simply volunteer to work less or if a law was passed that forced them to work less, the gap, whatever the cause, would go away. Perhaps you could write a paper to show how that could be accomplished. Who knows, it may make you famous.

  28. 28
    pseu says:

    Um, Rouge, the wage gap exists even when women and men work equal hours. And you contradict yourself: first you say the cause is fuzzy, then you claim that the “solution” is for men to work fewer hours. Which is it?

  29. 29
    Ampersand says:

    Yolanda, have you read this post of mine? If so, is that the kind of evidence you’re looking for? And if not, can you be more specific about what it is you’re looking for?

  30. 30
    Rogue says:

    Yes, the cause is fuzzy, the proof being the never ending discussion regarding the cause. Working less need not be equal to working less hours-just less effort; not trying so hard to achieve results or not trying to be creative, innovative or being so competitive. If men volunteered to do that, then over time they would be compensated less. It may not have been the cause of the gap but surely if they put in less effort and are then paid less then the gap goes away.

  31. 31
    pseu says:

    So you’re basically saying that women are less competitive, innovative and creative? You certainly haven’t worked anywhere I have. (snort!)

  32. 32
    Rogue says:

    No. Individuals who puts in less effort will, on the average, be compensated less. The solution presented simply suggests that those individuals be men. Undeniably, if this were to occur, the gap would go away.

  33. 33
    pseu says:

    And you believe in the Tooth Fairy too, right?

  34. 34
    Rogue says:

    No. But endless discussions, congressional inquiries and journal articles regarding this matter lead to nothing. And will continue to lead to nothing short of communism where wages are forced into parity despite the efforts of individual workers. Obviousely, that model was tried and failed.

    Any other suggestions?

  35. 35
    Ampersand says:

    First of all, the obvious fact that the wage gap has decreased over time shows that you’re wrong that nothing can be done to change it.

    Actually, in some states (and countries apart from the US) pay equity laws have been put in place which have improved the problem (although not eliminted it entirely).

    We could also increase enforcement of current anti-discrimination laws.

    We could increase parental leave, make it paid, and require that it be made available to men as well as women.

    Etc, etc…

  36. 36
    Rogue says:

    “pay equity?” As in replacing the free market with a bureaucracy empowered to mandate equal pay for unequal work?

  37. 37
    JRC says:

    Actually, no, more like “replacing the free market, which has proven itself once again unequal to the task of producing results consistent with fairness and equality, with a bureaucracy empowered to prohibit the sort of wage/gender discrimination which rewards equal (or superior) effort unequally.”

    I can see how you would get them mixed up, though. Most conservatarian sorts do.

    See, what I don’t understand about you guys is that, looking at the history of America, there have been damn few “free market” solutions to this sort of discrimination, and yet you hold on to this blind faith that as long as we leave everything alone, the “FREE MARKET” will magically fix it. That’s just not true.

    Slavery ended? Government action. The free market would have been more than happy to see it continue. . .it was more efficient.

    Segregation ended? Government action. The free market would have been more than happy to see it continue on a business by business basis.

    Child Labor laws? Government action.
    Overtime laws? Government action.
    Sexual harassment laws? Government action.
    Mine safety regulations? Government action.
    40 hour work week? Government action.

    If we’d left things to your precious goddamn free market, America would be a very different, and very bleak, place right now. I believe that the free market is good for some things. . .many things even. . .but American citizens (hell, world citizens) are posessed of basic rights which the free market cannot (and historically, did not)recognize. That’s where the government comes in.


  38. 38
    LuAnn says:

    this is my take on pay equity:

    If a man and a woman are employed to shift bricks on a building site and both the man and the woman work as hard as they can, but at the end of the week the man has shifted more bricks in his wheelbarrow than the woman – purely because he is stronger – then he should not be paid more than her.

    Its about equal pay for equal effort, not necessarily equal results.

    But I do wonder. Over time, do you think men (or whomever was always the one out-resulting others) will start to “slack off” due to a lack of additional rewards and regress to some sort of lowest common denominator. If so, is that good for the nation?

  39. 39
    Bilbo says:

    “It’s about equal pay for equal effort, not necessarily equal results.”

    I hope you’e joking about this, because it’s f*cking ludicrous. And how do you measure “effort” anyway? Unlike the examples of government intervention you listed above(with which I disagree), this lastest suggestion would be nothing less than government-enforced discrimination.

  40. 40
    LuAnn says:

    Meaure effort? good question. But that is only one challenge in implementing pay equity. How do you deal with “results” and the related incentive issues?

    Proposed pay equity legisalation –

    “wages should be the same for men and women that have roughly comparable requirements in terms of skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions”

    Nothing about *results* is mentioned.

    So, as in my brick worker example above, do you think men (or whomever was always the one out-resulting others) will start to “slack off” due to a lack of additional rewards and regress to some sort of lowest common denominator. If so, is that good for the nation?

    Any ideas?

  41. 41
    Lis says:

    I’ll confesss, I haven’t read your entire series, but have you seen the book Women Don’t Ask yet?
    Take a look at the intro and how it suggests women’s reluctance to negotiate excacerbates the wage gap.

  42. 42
    Ampersand says:

    Luanne –

    The bricklayer example is besides the point of pay equity. Pay equity is about how much people in “job A” and people in “job B” are paid, in comparison to each other; it’s not about how much people in “job B” are paid compared to other people who have the exact same job. So the “female vs male bricklayer” example you propose can’t tell us anything about pay equity.

    Anyhow, the situation you fear – where the most productive bricklayer is paid the same as less productive bricklayers – is in fact how many bricklayers are paid now, in the current economy; that is, most people are paid by the hour (or by the year), not by piecework. (Although some employers do an inbetween-thing, by paying an hourly wage but also offering bonuses to especially productive workers).

  43. 43
    Echidne says:

    There are actually relatively few jobs where ‘results’ are easy to measure. Think of something as simple as selling: even there the results don’t depend on just the worker’s skills and effort but also on a) the overall market conditions and b) the local market conditions.
    Something like medicine or teaching is even more difficult to in terms of measuring results, as they also depend on what the patient/student does.

    Only in some manual jobs are results easy to attribute to the worker.

    I very much doubt that men or any other groups have ‘out-resulted’ the others for this very reason: that results in general are not at all easy to measure or to attribute just to one worker’s effort. Besides, women are not a significant labor force component in occupations which require brute force more than any other characteristic, and nobody, to my knowledge, has argued for pay based on comparable worth of the type that you seem to advocate.

    Most actual experiments on comparable worth payment systems compare two occupations, one largely male and the other one largely female, where the characteristics that are required are about the same. As examples of the characteristics, what’s usually looked at are the education level needed, the skills that need to be acquired and so on. The comparable-worth argument states that if the two occupations demand the same characteristics then they should be paid the same. Results are usually not measurable, but even if they were, it would be hard to compare them across occupations. For example, if one occupation is animal feeders in a zoo and another one is human nutritionists, how would one compare the results?

    Critics of comparable worth argue that it displaces market forces and exacerbates female crowding in certain occupations by raising their wages. But the validity of this critique depends crucially on how free the labor markets actually are for women, and very little if any research has been done on that.


  44. 44
    Ampersand says:

    Lis –

    There are elements of the pay gap that women’s failure to negotiate simply cannot account for. For instance, one study (published in Harvard Law Review – I’m not at home right now, but if you ask I can dig up the exact citation) found that even when men and women use identical negotiating strategies, men are charged less for buying a car than women.

    Another example, cited in part nine of my series, is the example of blind auditions for orchestras. Women are more likely to be offered a job if the person hiring them doesn’t know the sex of the applicants. Again, that can’t be accounted for by failure to negotiate.

    Nonetheless, I certainly believe it’s possible – even likely – that failure to negotiate can account for part of the wage gap. At the same time, one reason that women may negotiate less is that they get less reward for negotiating. To quote from the link you provided:

    Despite recent gains made by women in many realms and the comparative openness of Western democracies to progress, our society still perpetuates rigid gender-based standards for behavior–standards that require women to behave modestly and unselfishly and to avoid promoting their own self-interest. New generations of children are taught to abide by and internalize these standards, making them less likely as adults to rebel against these common beliefs. In addition, women who do rebel against these standards by pushing more overtly on their own behalf often risk being punished. Sometimes they’re called “pushy” or “bitchy” or “difficult to work with.” Sometimes their skills and contributions are undervalued and they’re passed over for promotions they deserve. Other times, they’re left out of information-sharing networks. Experiencing this treatment themselves or seeing other women treated this way, many women struggle with intense anxiety when they consider asking for something they want–anxiety that can deter them from asking at all or interfere with their ability to ask well.

    In addition, even when women do negotiate, they often get less than a man in the same situation might get. Sometimes this happens because women set less aggressive goals going into their negotiations than men set and sometimes it happens because both men and women in our society typically take a harder line against women than they take against men in a negotiation. They make worse first offers to women, pressure women to concede more, and themselves concede much less. This doesn’t simply limit the results women produce when they do negotiate. If the benefits from negotiating are likely to be small and the process promises to be difficult, many women feel less incentive to ask in the first place.

    So women asking less probably is a cause of the wage gap – but at the same time, it’s also an effect of sexism and the wage gap.

  45. 45
    Lis says:

    Both initial examples you cite are mentioned in the book. Even when men & women, blacks & whites are trained in identical negotiating techniques to buy cars, researchers discovered that the salespeople made higher initial offers to women and minorities, so even if they all negotiated equally well, white men started out ahead.

    Separating causes and effects of the wage gap are tricky, but I do recommend you read through the book. [Women Don’t Ask by Babcock & Laschever. It’s a quick read.] It’s got some really good and thought-provoking stuff in here. [I’ve already asked my husband to read it once I’m finished.]

  46. 46
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks for the book recommendation. I’ve placed a hold on it at the library. :-)

  47. 47
    Alex says:

    This is very interesting, good and informative page. I’m delighted with it! Thanks.

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