Wage gap: are women paid less than men because of discrimination?

Hillary Clinton look bored about the deaths of 4 Americans who asked for her help
Hillary Clinton thinks that women are not paid fairly compared to men: is it true?

Liberal feminist Hanna Rosin takes a look at this question in the far-left Slate, of all places.


The official Bureau of Labor Department statistics show that the median earnings of full-time female workers is 77 percent of the median earnings of full-time male workers. But that is very different than “77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.” The latter gives the impression that a man and a woman standing next to each other doing the same job for the same number of hours get paid different salaries. That’s not at all the case. “Full time” officially means 35 hours, but men work more hours than women. That’s the first problem: We could be comparing men working 40 hours to women working 35.

How to get a more accurate measure? First, instead of comparing annual wages, start by comparing average weekly wages. This is considered a slightly more accurate measure because it eliminates variables like time off during the year or annual bonuses (and yes, men get higher bonuses, but let’s shelve that for a moment in our quest for a pure wage gap number). By this measure, women earn 81 percent of what men earn, although it varies widely by race. African-American women, for example, earn 94 percent of what African-American men earn in a typical week. Then, when you restrict the comparison to men and women working 40 hours a week, the gap narrows to 87 percent.

But we’re still not close to measuring women “doing the same work as men.” For that, we’d have to adjust for many other factors that go into determining salary. Economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn did that in a recent paper, “The Gender Pay Gap.”.”They first accounted for education and experience. That didn’t shift the gap very much, because women generally have at least as much and usually more education than men, and since the 1980s they have been gaining the experience. The fact that men are more likely to be in unions and have their salaries protected accounts for about 4 percent of the gap. The big differences are in occupation and industry. Women congregate in different professions than men do, and the largely male professions tend to be higher-paying. If you account for those differences, and then compare a woman and a man doing the same job, the pay gap narrows to 91 percent. So, you could accurately say in that Obama ad that, “women get paid 91 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.”

I believe that the remainder of the gap can be accounted for by looking at other voluntary factors that differentiate men and women.

The Heritage Foundation says that a recent study puts the number at 95 cents per dollar.


Women are more likely than men to work in industries with more flexible schedules. Women are also more likely to spend time outside the labor force to care for children. These choices have benefits, but they also reduce pay—for both men and women. When economists control for such factors, they find the gender gap largely disappears.

A 2009 study commissioned by the Department of Labor found that after controlling for occupation, experience, and other choices, women earn 95 percent as much as men do. In 2005, June O’Neil, the former director of the Congressional Budget Office, found that “There is no gender gap in wages among men and women with similar family roles.” Different choices—not discrimination—account for different employment and wage outcomes.

A popular article by Carrie Lukas in the Wall Street Journal agrees.


The Department of Labor’s Time Use survey shows that full-time working women spend an average of 8.01 hours per day on the job, compared to 8.75 hours for full-time working men. One would expect that someone who works 9% more would also earn more. This one fact alone accounts for more than a third of the wage gap.

[…]Recent studies have shown that the wage gap shrinks—or even reverses—when relevant factors are taken into account and comparisons are made between men and women in similar circumstances. In a 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30, the research firm Reach Advisors found that women earned an average of 8% more than their male counterparts. Given that women are outpacing men in educational attainment, and that our economy is increasingly geared toward knowledge-based jobs, it makes sense that women’s earnings are going up compared to men’s.

When women make different choices about education and labor that are more like what men choose, they earn just as much or more than men.

Now back to Hillary Clinton. How much does she pay the women on her staff?

The Washington Times reports:

During her time as senator of New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton paid her female staffers 72 cents for every dollar she paid men, according to a new Washington Free Beacon report.

From 2002 to 2008, the median annual salary for Mrs. Clinton’s female staffers was $15,708.38 less than what was paid to men, the report said. Women earned a slightly higher median salary than men in 2005, coming in at $1.04. But in 2006, they earned 65 cents for each dollar men earned, and in 2008, they earned only 63 cents on the dollar, The Free Beacon reported.

[…]Mrs. Clinton has spoken against wage inequality in the past. In April, she ironically tweeted that “20 years ago, women made 72 cents on the dollar to men. Today it’s still just 77 cents. More work to do. #EqualPay #NoCeilings.”

Think of this next time Hillary Clinton talks about “the wage gap”. She is talking about the women on her staff, and no one else.

4 thoughts on “Wage gap: are women paid less than men because of discrimination?”

  1. WK,

    I don’t know what to believe about this because I have seen studies with contradictory results. For example, this was in the NY Times the other day:

    “Claudia Goldin, a labor economist at Harvard, has crunched the numbers and found that the gap persists for identical jobs, even after controlling for hours, education, race and age. Female doctors and surgeons, for example, earn 71 percent of what their male colleagues make, while female financial specialists are paid just 66 percent as much as comparable men. Other researchers have calculated that women one year out of college earn 6.6 percent less than men after controlling for occupation and hours, and that female M.B.A. graduates earn on average $4,600 less than their male classmates for their first jobs.”

    How would you respond to this, other than just saying the NY Times has a liberal bias?

    1. Read this:


      Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economic historian, is probably the most authoritative expert on the history of gender and wages. So what’s her take? It’s more nuanced than Ms. Sommers’, but just as challenging to entrenched beliefs.

      “The converging roles of men and women are among the grandest advances in society and the economy in the last century,” she writes. Over the past few decades, the wage gap had narrowed sharply as women caught up with men in education, job experience and career choice, and even began to surpass them in some areas. In pharmacy – a high-paying, family-friendly field where women now dominate – there is no wage gap. Pharmacists, as Prof. Goldin notes, can work as much or as little as they like, with no penalty for part-time work. Occupations in which people are relatively interchangeable don’t have wage gaps. Nor do ones that don’t require much face time and can be done remotely. Many tech jobs are like this.

      The two job areas with the greatest gender gaps are corporate management and finance. (They’re also among the highest paying.) These are jobs where, as Prof. Goldin said in a recent interview, “people earn a disproportionate premium for working long and continuous hours.” In these jobs, face time, interpersonal relationships and long hours are extremely important. Flextime may be fine for worker bees, but not for people aiming to make partner or the C-suite.

      This explains why female MBAs and lawyers experience the biggest gender pay gaps of all. They start out equal, but the gap increases hugely over time as women start to have kids, then narrows a bit as they come back into the work force.

      You have to control for kids, which impacts work history and number of hours worked, even for the SAME job. By the way, Goldbin is respected by conservatives like me, so good choice of authority.

    2. OK the Economist now has an article up that cites Goldin:


      A new report from PayScale, a jobs website, takes a stab at this very problem by looking at the gender gap in various occupations controlling for factors including experience, education, company size, and crucially, job title. According to their data, female doctors make 29.2% less than their male counterparts, but that gap shrinks to just 4.6% after introducing the controls. This in part because women are more likely to work in paediatrics, while men are more likely to work in the better-paid field of surgery. A similar pattern exists for lawyers: women make 14.8% less than men, but just 4.1% less on an adjusted basis. Again, there are differences in the types of jobs taken by men and women: 8.7% of female lawyers work for non-profit outfits, compared to just 4.5% for male ones. The pay gap for all workers is 25.6% before such differences are controlled for, and 2.7% afterwards.

      A paper published last year by Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard University, noted that the gender pay gap was especially acute in law and business, despite the fact that fresh graduates in those fields started at similar salaries. The problem, Ms Goldin notes, is that succeeding at such professions requires copious amounts of “face time”. On the other hand, pharmacists, for whom there is little penalty for working part-time, experience virtually no gender pay gap.

      Another study by Ms Goldin and Lawrence Katz (also of Harvard) noted that being away from work for 18 months was associated with a 29% drop in earnings for mid-career lawyers and PhDs, and a 41% for MBAs. In effect, much of the gender pay gap can be thought of as the cost of having children.

      Hope this puts your concerns to rest. The Economist leans hard left, and endorsed Obama.

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