Women Make 77 Cents For Every Dollar Men Earn? Only If You Rely On Misleading Data

A commonly cited statistic in support of the "equal pay" argument does not stand up to scrutiny.


During his State of the Union address, President Obama repeated a statistic that has become quite common on the political left over the past several years regarding the so-called pay gap between men and women:

Today, women make up about half our workforce.  But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.  That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work.  She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job.  A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too.  It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode.  This year, let’s all come together – Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to Main Street – to give every woman the opportunity she deserves.  Because I firmly believe when women succeed, America succeeds.

That statistic, that women make 77 cents for every dollar that men earn, which has sometimes been expressed in different ways by different people, but in general it has served as the centerpiece of the argument for the argument for so-called equal pay laws for decades now. On a basic rhetorical level, of course, it has some appeal because it makes it sound as if a man and a woman who hold the exact same job under the exact same conditions are being paid drastically different amounts. For example, it means that if a man works your typical mid-level corporate cubicle job is earning $50,000 per year before taxes, then the woman sitting in the next cubicle over who is doing the exact same thing that he is is earning only $38,500 per year. The statistic has been repeated so often that it is now taken as gospel, even though when you think about it logically for just a few minutes, it makes absolutely no sense. After all, if a business could get away with paying 23% lower salaries on average, then why wouldn’t it hire more women than men? And yet there is no evidence at all of this happening. Additionally, the statistic itself is actually based on government statistics that, quite inappropriately, group all occupations and all workers together, as Politifact explains:

The basic federal data comes from two agencies — the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the two agencies’ numbers don’t exactly agree.

The Census Bureau, which tracks annual wages, found women who worked full-time, year-round in 2012 made 77 cents for every dollar men earned across the country — a percentage in line with what it’s been for the last few years.This comparison includes all male and female workers regardless of occupation.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics uses a different measures to analyze the pay gap, including weekly wages. BLS found that women who worked full time in wage and salary jobs had median usual weekly earnings of $669 in 2012, which was 82 percent of men’s median weekly earnings. This, too, was in line with the ratio in recent years.

What’s the difference? Unlike the measure of annual wages by the Census Bureau, the weekly wage analysis does not account for people who are self-employed. It does include people left out of the year-round wage measure, such as some teachers, construction workers and seasonal workers.

Another measure — hourly rates — shows a smaller degree of pay disparity. According to BLS data, women were paid 86 percent of the median hourly wages of men in 2012. This evaluation accounts for part-time (fewer than 35 hours) workers, which are more often women and are paid less than their salaried counterparts. Women paid by the hour made median hourly earnings of $11.99, compared to $13.88 for men. However, this figure excludes salaried workers — another reason why the statistics differ.

Each of the highlighted sections above points out a problem with the statistics used to justify the entire “equal pay” argument.

For example, the initial “77 cents” example that the President relied upon in the State Of The Union Address is based on a study that takes every single worker in the United States, groups them into one big amalgam, and then seperates them by gender to come up with the purported “proof” that women earn 77 cents less than women. Even assuming that these numbers are true, they are essentially meaningless because, in grouping all workers in every occupation together you are making the ultimate apples-to-oranges comparison. There is simply no logic in the idea of grouping together all workers in the manner that this purported study does, and the information that doing so gives you is, in the end rather useless in telling us anything about the existence or non-existence of any kind of pay disparity between men and women.

There are similar problems with the BLS figures that purport to show that women’s weekly earnings were 18% less than men’s weekly earnings in 2012. Once again, this is based on taking the reported weekly earnings of every worker in the country and comparing the wages of all men and the wages of all women. It is, once again, your classic apples and oranges comparison that tells us absolutely nothing about what the “equal pay” argument is really all about, the implication, entirely unproven, that employers deliberately decide to pay an equally qualified woman in the exact same position doing the exact same work as a man some amount less than her male counterpart. Furthermore, as noted above, the BLS study does not account for the self-employed, nor does it account for people in a wide range of industries and professions who don’t fall into the employed-year-round category for weekly wage analysis.  Once again, it’s a statistic that tells us absolutely nothing.

These criticisms also apply to the BLS figures regarding hourly wages, of course.

Over at Slate, Hannah Rosin has more to say about the logical fallacies and misuse of statistics behind the “equal pay” argument:

 [W]e’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.”

The point here is not that there is no wage inequality. But by focusing our outrage into a tidy, misleading statistic we’ve missed the actual challenges. It would in fact be much simpler if the problem were rank sexism and all you had to do was enlighten the nation’s bosses or throw the Equal Pay Act at them. But the 91 percent statistic suggests a much more complicated set of problems. Is it that women are choosing lower-paying professions or that our country values women’s professions less?

Let me suggest several possible explanations for this disparity, which to be quite honest is far less “shocking” than the 77 cents on the dollar figure that the Presidents and advocates of the “equal pay” meme continue to push on a regular basis. For one thing, it is simply impossible to adequately compare one profession to another. For example, there are many professions that are dominated by one gender or the others that come with higher salaries simply because of the education, training, or risk involved in the job. Comparing a male “high steel” ironworker’s salary to that of a female elementary school teacher, for example, is entirely worthless because the jobs are far too radically different for anyone to say objectively that one person or the other is being unfairly discriminated against because their salary is lower. Moving on to comparisons between men and women in the same job, there are any number of factors that could influence pay discrepancies, ranging from the fact that even professional women are more likely to take time off in their careers to the fact that, culturally at least, women seem less willing to play the “work long hours till you drop” game that many top paying jobs in the corporate and legal worlds require of people who wish to break through to the positions where salary levels become huge. Indeed, Rosin cites one study that seems to make that point:.

Goldin and Lawrence Katz have done about as close to an apples-to-apples comparison of men’s and women’s wages as exists. (They talk about it here in a Freakonomics discussion.) They tracked male and female MBAs graduating from the University of Chicago from 1990 to 2006. First they controlled for previous job experience, GPA, chosen profession, business-school course and job title. Right out of school, they found only a tiny differential in salary between men and women, which might be because of a little bit of lingering discrimination or because women are worse at negotiating starting salaries. But 10 to 15 years later, the gap widens to 40 percent, almost all of which is due to career interruptions and fewer hours. The gap is even wider for women business school graduates who marry very high earners.

In other words, to a large degree differences between salaries can often be accounted for by examining the choices that people make during the course of their career, and women tend to make different choices than men. The fact that this would ultimately result in them earning less than men should not be surprising, and it isn’t evidence of discrimination.

None of this is meant to discount the possibility that there might not be real-world examples of wage discrimination based on gender. However, proving that such cases exist is exceedingly difficult because it’s next to impossible to find similarly situated men and women unless you’re looking at specific cases within a single business and can find specific evidence of intentional discrimination by employers. Absent that, a lot of what we’re seeing in the unequal pay earned by men and women is the result of personal choices that individuals have made throughout their lives, not evidence of some nefarious conspiracy to pay women less than men. At the very least, though, it is clear that the statistic that the President cited on Tuesday night was both meaningless and misleading.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Economics and Business, Gender Issues, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. superdestroyer says:


    I predict that most of comments here will ignore your cites and analysis and just repeat the demand of “equal pay for equal work” when what the really mean is equal pay for equivalent work. Progressives would love to have federal and state governments establish which jobs are equivalent and demand that employers pay them the same amount. It will be a huge windfall for all of the women working in human resources but will lower the pay of men working in Engineering since many of them only have an undergraduate degree.

  2. grumpy realist says:

    Doug, the main problem is the big hit mothers take to their lifetime earnings by having children. It’s pretty well established that if you’re on a powerhouse track and jump off, you don’t get back on. A lot of women end up deciding to stay-home-and-take-care-of-the-kids because their companies were absolutely abysmal when it came to helping them deal with the situation–they couldn’t even get flextime!

    In environment which squeezes women off their career tracks because it won’t accomodate parenthood, you don’t get to turn around and say “well, it was “a voluntary choice” that she chose to leave and we don’t have to worry about the consequences.”

    For myself, I think women should pull a Lysistratan strike until U.S. companies start dealing with the burdens of caretakers. Let’s put it this way–companies can think of this is doing their bit towards making certain they will have future customers for their products.

  3. “Women congregate in different professions than men do, and the largely male professions tend to be higher-paying.”

    But does not even this point to a potential disparity issue? Why do women congregate in certain professions and why are the male dominated ones higher paying?

  4. Jay L. Gischer says:

    @grumpy_realist I don’t know why it should just be women who go on strike. I have taken career hits because I needed to care for family members with chronic health issues.

  5. Matt Bernius says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    That by itself is a critical question (and implied within it is a normative one – what is the correlation between high paying and “important” professions).

    Beyond that, the overall issue at hand is that whether we are talking about 77 cents or 91 cents on the dollar there remains a discrepancy. Further there are the complications created by the issue of gaps in service from life events like childbirth.

    On that second topic, I’d argue that we, as a culture, are about to discover that the income implications of gaps in service reach far further than just women. Given the nature of the unemployment rate and the average length of joblessness, I suspect a lot of men are about to become acutely aware of what happens to their salaries after extended leaves from work (voluntary or otherwise).

  6. Andre Kenji says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Why do women congregate in certain professions and why are the male dominated ones higher paying?

    Men are more likely to chose professions based on pay(there is larger social pressure for them to do so), there are many relatively high paying professions that requires physical force, women, specially women with children, does not like professions that requires travel.

    There is the issue of discrimination(That should worry men, since there are many companies and professions that are going to be dominated by women) and the issue of motherhood, but there are also reasons why men and women chose different careers.

  7. JKB says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Men are more likely to have jobs that involve high skills deployed in hostile environments. More likely to be employed in fields with high injury/death rates. Or require long periods as geographic bachelors. Turns out, to get people to do those things you have to pay more.

    Odds are, if you see someone upside down in a ship’s bilge welding a galvanized pipe producing poisonous gases, they’re going to be male.

  8. C. Clavin says:

    Doug ,
    Super-Dooper agrees with you … So there you go.
    Good for you.

  9. Ron Beasley says:

    I was an engineer and my two best bosses were women. They were brilliant and trusted me and supported me when I made a decision. Many of my male bosses were assholes.. These women bosses made good money but they gave up being mothers – not an easy choice but one they made which put them on par with their male peers.

  10. wr says:

    Wow. Slate, Politifact AND Freakonomics all say that there’s nothing to worry about here, that the little women should just accept the fact that they’re paid less because the work they do is worth less. What would a libertarian do without the mindless contrarianism of outlets like these to assure him that inequality is only a problem when it hurts white males?

  11. superdestroyer says:


    If women are suppose to make the same per hour as men that means that womens pay has to rise without an equivalent rise of men’s pay. How would the government make that happen.

    Do you really want a government where the government sets everyone’s pay relative to all other jobs. Do you really think that the U.S. could stay competitive in a global marketplace if human resource specialist with masters degrees are paid more than petroleum engineers with bachelor’s degrees?

  12. Pinky says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    Beyond that, the overall issue at hand is that whether we are talking about 77 cents or 91 cents on the dollar there remains a discrepancy.

    Yeah, but how much? It’s come up a few times on this site recently how difficult it is to get good numbers in the social sciences. We know that 60% of the difference can be explained by experience and profession. Figure that some more of it can be controlled away, and some of it is confirmation bias, and we’re looking at near-perfect equality. How much extra law, and complicance cost, should we add in order to close a 1-2% gap?

  13. Pinky says:

    @wr: Your complaint is that multiple sources across the political spectrum are in agreement?

  14. jd says:

    Median usual weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary workers by occupation and sex
    Run a few ratios. Hard to reach even 77%.

    “differences between salaries can often be accounted for by examining the choices that people make”

    I think the males and females in the table above all chose the same: to work.

  15. Andre Kenji says:

    These are completely different issues. It´s true, there are perfectly legitimate reasons that explains the difference of wages between men and women, even when they are working on the same field. On the other hand, that does not mean that there is no discrimination in the workplace nor that Public Policies to increase the participation of both genders in the workplace(I would say that increasing the number of male teachers is as important as increasing the number of women in tech) aren´t necessary.

    The wage gap will always exist(Unless there are deep changes in the society as a whole), that does not mean that fighting discrimination is not necessary.

  16. Gustopher says:

    To be fair, although women only earn 77% what men earn, they also only weigh about 77% what men weigh, so it is all fair.

  17. TarianinMO says:

    You’ve left out that in many cases, women may choose to exit the workforce because they want and choose to after having children, even temporarily. Yes, some employers may not be flexible, but many are. For some positions, flex time is not an option because there is a business need. Forcing a one size all solution for all roles isn’t the answer.

  18. bill says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: here’s an easy one- oilfield workers. even the trash (as they call themselves) make tons of money- but it’s dangerous and unpredictable, as well as physically/mentally draining and usually not centrally located to shopping let alone livable terrain.

    women are different steve, they just are!

    here’s another thought- if these so called “female dominated” jobs started paying more don’t you think men would start taking them? maybe not strippers and such, but you know.

  19. Rob in CT says:

    If memory serves, the adjusted number is ~90%.

    [Reads post] Yep, 86-91%, depending on how you want to measure.

    Here’s my issue with the 91% figure, as Rosin says:

    the largely male professions tend to be higher-paying

    I don’t think that’s just chance, or pure merit.

    Anyway, there’s a gap. I accepted some time ago it wasn’t 77%. There’s still work to be done. If I were giving a speech on it, I’m not sure which figure I’d use. I’d probably end up giving a range “depending on how you calculate it” which would, of course, muddle my message. I’d be a bad politician.

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Exactly. I have been in construction almost all my adult life. There are a number of professions that women should be able to thrive in such as electrical, plumbing, sheet metal, etc, and yet there are very few of them in those lines of work. In all my years in both residential and commercial, I have never worked on a job with a female plumber, one job with a female electrician, and I have one close friend who is a sheet metal worker. That gal has more balls than most men I know and she has needed them on every job site she has ever worked on because giving as good as she gets isn’t good enough. She has to give better. I have seen her castrate a man with her tongue quicker than any cowboy ever did a calf with a knife.

    It shouldn’t have to be that way.

  21. Rob in CT says:


    Prediction fail. Who’s surprised?

  22. Figs says:

    @Rob in CT: on the chance/merit question, nobody’s brought up the gender composition of the class of people determining what jobs are worth. It’s just being claimed that female dominated jobs pay less, like that’s some immutable law of the universe.

  23. john personna says:

    I never trusted such numbers.

    I knew that in my environment of engineering people in “the same job” made 1x$ to 3x$. That cut across both men and women, and varied in some combination of engineering and negotiating ability. Some good engineers were bad negotiators, and some good negotiators were only so-so engineers.

    (It’s good to remind kids that negotiation is a skill to have, and that employers seldom give you something that you don’t first ask for.)

    If Tyler Cowen and The Average Is Over are right though, this is going to only get tighter and worse as years go on. There is nothing on the horizon that reverses the trend of automation, outsourcing, and downsizing.

  24. Andre Kenji says:

    One of the reasons why men are paid more is precisely because there is more societal pressure for them to do so. A woman that has a graduation in Art History and has a low paying job can always find a husband with a high paying job, a man with a graduation in Art History and a low paying job may have difficulties finding any date at all.

    You find lots of single men in career that have lots of married woman. That´s sexism, but it´s a much more complicated sexism..

  25. John D'Geek says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Check out “the XX Factor”; the author does a very good job of looking at that (among other things). Short version: there are no “quick and easy answers” to that question.

  26. Blue Galangal says:

    @Matt Bernius: I’m not sure wage or price controls are necessarily the answer. (This country would never go for that.) One thing I’ve long thought would be helpful to women’s economic security (and by extension their family’s) is to give them a Social Security tax credit if they have children and aren’t working outside the home.

    It might be sellable to Republicans (at least, as long as Obama didn’t back it): acknowledge that the work stay at home parents are doing is as valuable to society as society claims by giving them their Social Security quarters, if nothing else. (The same could hold true for a man who stays home with the kids – it’s not based on gender but on stay-at-home parenting.) Say, until the kid is 5 or 6. Then the assumption would be that they could have another kid or go back into the workforce. At any rate, it would give them 20-24 quarters of Social Security that they eschewed by staying home. I don’t know how workable it is, but it seems like one possible aid in the quest for long-term economic security.

  27. Rob in CT says:

    @Blue Galangal:

    Hmm. Thinking about how that might work in the wild… maybe it should only for the first, say, 3 kids? There has to be *some* cutoff, no? Would this replace other forms of child-focused safety net? I think if you rolled some of that stuff together and just provided some sort of child credit it might be an interesting idea. [same logic applies to taking the vast majority of the safety net, rolling it up, and turning it into a UBI]

  28. grumpy realist says:

    @TarianinMO: So you just wash your hands of the entire problem, shrug your shoulders when companies whine about How This Will Present a Horrible Problem, and dump the negative results on women’s shoulders?

    If you look at the historical record, companies also bitterly complained about a) getting rid of child labor b) the 40-hour work week c) hiring women d) worker protection. In each case, the impending regulations were going to Doom Them All.

    So you’ll permit me to be more skeptical about companies’ complaints about flex-time and tele-working and daycare centers on site and all of that.

  29. Rob in CT says:

    I think there are basically two issues here. They intersect, but I see them as distinct enough to be separable:

    1) Plain ‘ole discrimination, which while I think it still exists is waning. Women are rising in the professional world to the point where I think individuals will be out in front of the law in many cases (Lily Ledbetter is the counterpoint). I could be wrong, and if I am it’s due to the experience my wife and I have at our company (a huge prop cas insurer). Anecdote != data, I know, but I really do think the “Mad Men workplace” as O put it, is a rare thing facing extinction.

    2) The much trickier question: how do we best support families? What basic rules can we have in place to do this (one size obviously doesn’t fit all, which is why I say “basic” rules), and where are our current ones lacking? Some will point to a general lack of paid paternity leave. Others will point out that FMLA (unpaid leave) isn’t all that robust. Others will note the burden on the employer when an employee is on leave for ~3 months (FMLA = 12 weeks, though some states, like CT, extend that). Gender certainly enters into it, but it’s not strictly gendered anymore. I took leave after my 1st daughter was born. I know other guys who have done similar things. A close friend is a SAHF.

    Now, women are the ones who flat out *need* leave time to recover from childbirth (whereas me staying home w/my daughter was something I wanted to do, and am happy I did, but it wasn’t literally physically necessary). There is a line of thought that says hey, a totally non-biased employer, when faced with an employee who works just like normal and another who takes 3 months off a couple of times (and let’s also not pretend that those who have kids are working at 100% when they’re 8+ months pregnant and when they’ve got a newborn in the house), is justified in paying the former more. I’ve seen this argued by political conservatives, but I’ve also heard it from relatively liberal, but childless, people. And I agree that it’s entirely possible to do that without an ounce of animus, distain or other negative feelings towards women (or children) as a group. In a narrow sense, it’s equitable. I think it fails to be equitable in a broader sense. The comparison I think of is that we all pay for public schools even if we don’t have kids. There are some things we do collectively to promote the care & feeding, if you will, of the next generation.

  30. grumpy realist says:

    There’s also the factor that as soon as large numbers of women enter a profession, it suddenly turns out to be not worth as much by society. We saw this historically with a lot of professions that have now been classified as “the pink-collar ghetto.”

    Unfortunately, I think there’s still an unconscious judging on all our parts that “work that women do” just isn’t worth that much. “Oh, anyone can do that job–even a woman!”

    And we CERTAINLY don’t value caretaking when done by anyone. Probably one of the reasons that school teachers are now more and more devalued–they’re getting to be considered nothing more than babysitters, rather than teachers.

    Hence my feeling that Ayn Rand’s book Atlas Shrugged would have been much more interesting if she had written it about the REAL people who hold up the world–the mothers and fathers, nurses, caretakers. John Galt? Pffoof–easily replaceable. But Ayn doesn’t seem to have ever had to take care of anyone in her life and her writing reflects that. Which is why her writings appeal to adolescent boys who blithely ignore that SOMEONE had to feed, shelter, clothe, and educate them until they reached the age of Randian brattiness.

  31. john personna says:

    @grumpy realist:

    There’s also the factor that as soon as large numbers of women enter a profession, it suddenly turns out to be not worth as much by society.

    I could rephrase that, as economics. As soon as too many people (seek to) enter a profession, it suddenly becomes less costly for employers.

    To give a mini-example, I did a lot of industrial programming. Like a lot of people, I would have liked to do Macintosh programming as my day job. It was cool. It was happening. But darned if every time I checked the wages weren’t 25-50% less than more boring and less glamorous industrial work. Too many people wanted in, and were willing to accept low pay to make it happen.

    I totally get that there is discrimination, but I think many people just have an inverted sense of the marketplace. It does not owe us anything, it is always our opponent, and it is our first job top position ourselves against it.

  32. grumpy realist says:

    @Blue Galangal: That’s one reason why I get so frustrated with certain SAHM mommy-bloggers. If they spent 1/2 of the time lobbying the state and federal governments as they do whining about how No One Appreciates Them, they’d HAVE the Social Security credits/revised school schedule/whatever that would help the situation.

  33. Rob in CT says:

    @john personna: @grumpy realist:

    I think there’s truth in both of your takes. There’s also the negotiation point that John raised earlier. I know lots of people who don’t negotiate much or at all with their employers. I’m one of ’em, btw. Research on the issue suggests that women are less likely to negotiate/demand than men. I think there are reasons for this that have nothing to do with female weakness (women are more likely to be raised to be “polite” and “nice” and not be all demanding and stuff, women are more likely to be disliked if they are assertive [what a bitch!], etc).

    This stuff is complicated.

  34. john personna says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Looking back, I think I sometimes “left money on the table” by not asking. My technique was to accept the raise, and then mail resumes or not. Even then I didn’t always mail as soon as I should have done.

    Part of the “suddenly I found out that my co-worker makes more than me” that is a warning is the “suddenly I found out” part. We have to keep aware, and should probably mail resumes at suitable frequency.

  35. Nightcrawler says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    A woman that has a graduation in Art History and has a low paying job can always find a husband with a high paying job

    That’s laughable, especially these days. First of all, while women are statistically more likely than men to “marry up,” the overwhelming majority of people marry horizontally. Second, high-paying jobs these days are quite rare.

    Any indigent woman who thinks she’s going to marry into money is setting herself up for a life lived on welfare.

  36. Andre Kenji says:

    @Rob in CT: I worked in a building where there were something like 8 women for one man working there. One of the issues that I noted was that for me, as a dude, it was much more difficult to socialize because everyone was always talking about issues that matters to women, like children or some telenovela.

    I imagine that women working in masculine environments would face the same problems. That´s why I think that even well intentioned people will discriminate in hiring and in promotion, and that´s probably a bigger factor than the negotiation abilities of women.

    And that´s one of the reasons why men should support anti-discrimination legislation: sometimes, the difference between oppressors and oppressed is just the numerical superiority.

  37. Nightcrawler says:

    I don’t think there is a way we can “support families.” With few exceptions, you can either have a family or you can make gobs of money. You can only choose one, and while that may not be “fair,” there simply is no way of fixing it. Some problems simply aren’t fixable. That’s the way it works in the real world, but most people seem to have trouble grasping that.

  38. Andre Kenji says:


    First of all, while women are statistically more likely than men to “marry up,” the overwhelming majority of people marry horizontally.

    That´s not so simple, because someone that has a Ph.D can have lower pay than someone with just a High School degree. A carpenter can have a higher paying job than someone with a Master in Arts. Besides that, in the country that has no paid maternity leave nor universal pre-school(TM) there is a large number of women that are married to rich men and that are stay at home moms..

    Besides that, the pressure for a high paying job is much stronger on men than on women.

  39. Andre Kenji says:


    I don’t think there is a way we can “support families.”

    I don´t think that ‘paid maternity leave” and “universal pre school” means asking too much.

  40. stonetools says:

    Doug cites Hanna Rosin, but doesn’t cite her conclusion:

    If this midcareer gap is due to discrimination, it’s much deeper than “male boss looks at female hire and decides she is worth less, and then pats her male colleague on the back and slips him a bonus.” It’s the deeper, more systemic discrimination of inadequate family-leave policies and childcare options, of women defaulting to being the caretakers.

    So here’s the question: what’s the conservative/libertarian/Republican (CLR) response to such systemic discrimination, other than “Don’t be a woman?” Now this is not virgin territory here. Let’s take a look at how other countries do it.
    Looking at the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_leave article on international family leave policies, one sentence jumps out:

    Paid Family Leave has been available as a legal right and/or governmental program for many years, in one form or another, in most countries – with the exceptions of the United States of America, Papua New Guinea and Liberia.[1]

    Talk about your American exceptionalism, eh? Let’s face it, this is disgraceful-and we can be sure that the usual suspects are responsible, because FREEDUMB! Let’s look at our favorite socialist hellhole, Sweden.

    Sweden provides working parents with an entitlement of 13 months paid leave per child at 77.6% of the employee’s monthly salary (up to a ceiling of about $3,400 per month (2013)), the cost being shared between employer and the state.[5] In

    So Sweden has generous paid family leave, but somehow hasn’t slipped into serfdom, despite all conservative predictions? Well, we know that these Nordics are weird and their women are sluts, so let’s look at a large multicultural, English speaking country, just like us: Canada.

    In 2000, parental leave was greatly expanded in Canada from 10 weeks to 35 weeks divided as desired between two parents. This is in addition to 15 weeks maternity leave. In most situations, a combination of maternity and parental benefits can be received up to a combined maximum of 50 weeks. In Canada maternity and parental leave is paid for by the Employment Insurance system.

    Got that ? Sweden has 52 weeks’ paid parental leave, while Canada has 50. And somehow, both countries are economically successful modern democracies. Of course, these countries aren’t ‘Murica, and don’t value fredumb like we do, right? Except for California.

    California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) insurance program, which is also known as the Family Temporary Disability Insurance (FTDI) program, is a law enacted in 2002 that extends unemployment disability compensation to cover individuals who take time off work to care for a seriously ill family member or bond with a new minor child. Benefits equal approximately 55% of earnings and have a maximum per week.

    Now, as all CLR folk know, California is doomed, but here is one assessment of their program:

    When paid family leave first passed in California, business leaders were worried that it would mean a hit to their bottom line. But, now that they’ve seen the program in action, their opinions have shifted. According to a 2011 survey, the overwhelming majority of employers reported that paid family leave had either a positive effect or no noticeable effect on business profitability, productivity, and employee morale.

    In fact, many employers report that paid family leave has been good for business. California employers have found that paid leave reduces absenteeism and tardiness, and reduces turnover.

    But, paid family leave isn’t just about economics. The benefits to a family’s health and well-being are well-documented. Studies suggest that leave nearly doubles the amount of time a mother takes to breastfeed, thereby increasing the immune protection and long-term health of her child. Parental leave policies are associated with reduced rates of infant deaths and behavioral issues, as well as reduced rates of postpartum depression.

    People are so impressed by California’s example that there are moves afoot to enact similar programs in Connecticut and New York , and there is national legislation pending. The CLR response is to block such legislation and to insist that women just need to suck it up, make the same choices men do, and above all keep their legs closed. And if all else fails, marry a rich man.

  41. Grewgills says:

    @JKB: @bill:
    Both of you are talking about pretty small components of the workforce as a whole. I very much doubt that it is that tiny corner of the workforce that is driving the difference in pay overall.

  42. stonetools says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Which is why her writings appeal to adolescent boys who blithely ignore that SOMEONE had to feed, shelter, clothe, and educate them until they reached the age of Randian brattiness.

    It’s such topics as this that show why 68 per cent of all libertarians are men.

    Fun fact: Ayn Rand, queen of libertarianism, ended her days living on Social Security and Medicare:

    As Pryor said, “Doctors cost a lot more money than books earn and she could be totally wiped out” without the aid of these two government programs. Ayn took the bail out even though Ayn “despised government interference and felt that people should and could live independently… She didn’t feel that an individual should take help.”

    But alas she did and said it was wrong for everyone else to do so. Apart from the strong implication that those who take the help are morally weak, it is also a philosophic point that such help dulls the will to work, to save and government assistance is said to dull the entrepreneurial spirit.

    In the end, Miss Rand was a hypocrite but she could never be faulted for failing to act in her own self-interest.

  43. Gavrilo says:

    Thank God President Obama is on the case.

    Obama White House Hypocritically Pays Women Less Than Men

  44. Nightcrawler says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    there is a large number of women that are married to rich men and that are stay at home moms..

    Yes, but, by and large, those women were not raised on welfare, in a trailer park or a ‘hood. They come from wealthy families. So even though they may not earn a lot of money personally, they come from it. That’s what I mean by marrying “horizontally.” While there are exceptions, most people marry within their own social classes.

    the pressure for a high paying job is much stronger on men than on women.

    While this is true, the dynamic is quickly changing. Modern women are expected to get “good” degrees and “good” jobs as well. I don’t think this is a negative thing. No one should ever depend on their spouse to support them. Your spouse could leave, they could lose their job, or they could become disabled or die…and then what? Everyone should be in a position where they can support themselves if their spouse becomes unwilling or is rendered unable to do so.

  45. ernieyball says:

    @Blue Galangal: I’m not sure wage or price controls are necessarily the answer. (This country would never go for that.)

    Never say never…

    Wage and price controls were unprecedented in peacetime, but by the summer of 1971, Richard Nixon and his staff, along with much of the country, had decided that the rate of inflation was too high to bear — persisting above 4 percent in 1971, and briefly exceeding 6 percent in 1970. So on August 15, 1971, President Nixon announced a 90-day freeze on wages, prices and rents.

  46. grumpy realist says:

    @Nightcrawler: Yes, but this still ignores the acid reality that once you jump off a career track, it’s very hard to get back on. Especially for high-level professions.

    And how many employers would take a chance on a lawyer who has a J.D. from Harvard and passed the Bar 15 years ago but hasn’t worked since then? Or a hospital hiring a brain surgeon who hasn’t done a single operation for 10 years? Skills DO decay…..there are reasons why we require recertification in many professions and it isn’t because we want to be mean to stay-at-home mommies.

    What we really need are more part-time-jobs that allow people to keep themselves on the cutting edge while they spend some of their time parenting/caretaking.

  47. Andre Kenji says:


    Yes, but, by and large, those women were not raised on welfare, in a trailer park or a ‘hood. They come from wealthy families.

    I´m using an extreme example. But there are many women choose part-time jobs precisely because they have husbands with good jobs.

    Modern women are expected to get “good” degrees and “good” jobs as well. I

    Not in the same scale as men or women. Just ask about how many dates an unemployed man manages to get.

  48. superdestroyer says:


    coming back to work after a year off would be about the same as being a new hire. Of course, the ferility in both countries is lower than the rate in the U.S. partially due to the very high taxes that people in those countries. Having a children will lower one’s standard of living in those countries. In the U.S., having a lower standard of lving means not being able to afford to avoid poor people.

  49. Nightcrawler says:

    @grumpy realist:

    I’m not disagreeing with you. That’s why I don’t think this is a problem that can be solved.

  50. Nightcrawler says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    there are many women choose part-time jobs precisely because they have husbands with good jobs.

    Only a tiny percentage of men even have jobs that pay enough to support 2+ people. These days, most men (and women) don’t even make enough to support themselves. If the wives of those men plain quit working, the family would end up on welfare, homeless, or both.

    While it’s true that a significant number of women married to those particular men may choose not to work outside the home, they represent a tiny portion of the population as a whole.

    Just ask about how many dates an unemployed man manages to get.

    Regardless of your gender, if you’re unemployed, getting a date should be your absolute last concern. Getting money should be the only thing you care about. And I say this as a female. If I were unemployed, I’d be spending all of my time chasing money and work, not boyfriends. I’ve got my priorities straight…and so do many Millennials. Surveys have consistently shown that many of them plain don’t date because they are unemployed or underemployed, and they feel they have more important things to worry about than getting a boyfriend/girlfriend.

    Money should be put ahead of everything else…and I do mean everything.

  51. Jc says:

    How about Indian engineers and IT? They are paid far less than their American counterparts. I believe women will be on par in time. It just takes time for them to get into more positions of power. Just look at who is more educated now. It’s the ladies. If the gap is shrinking it will continue to shrink.

  52. grumpy realist says:

    @Nightcrawler: There was that book “The Feminine Mistake” which came out looking at the experiences of upper-middle-class and upper-class educated women who had decided to do the “stay at home and be a Mom” thing. It basically ended up as a warning about the perils of jumping off the track and how it wasn’t that easy at all to get back on it in the future. (There were also quite a few gruesome tales of women whose husbands had died or left them, with the resultant economic drop in their lifestyles.)

    I do, however, think a LOT of the problem is that women aren’t trained to negotiate, and certainly not to negotiate for raises. Which probably accounts for at least some of the salary discrepancies.

  53. Andre Kenji says:


    Only a tiny percentage of men even have jobs that pay enough to support 2+ people.

    I´m not talking about that. I´m talking about the fact that many women choose low paying jobs because they have husbands with high paying jobs.

    And I say this as a female.

    The pressure toward males is bigger, believe me.

  54. wr says:

    @Nightcrawler: “Money should be put ahead of everything else…and I do mean everything.”

    That strikes me as a fairly sad way to look at life. Sure, it’s crucially important to have a job — but to basically abandon everything in life until you do? Doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

  55. wr says:

    @Andre Kenji: From the little I’ve seen of Brazil, gender relationships seem very different there than they do here. I’m not sure that what you’re saying is really applicable in the USA.

  56. Andre Kenji says:

    @wr: That´s true. Brazil also has a relatively good safety net for mothers(180 days of paid leave, preschool), and that´s also creates disparities.

    But also note that single young men in the United States have lower wages than single young women. And even in the US many women chooses lower paying jobs because they have a husband with a good job(The difference is that in the United States there are also men that take low paying jobs because they have a wife with a good job).

    Anyway, that´s a very complex issue, and as I pointed out the fact that some of these discrepancies are legitimate does not mean that discrimination does not happen. I´m not saying that women have an easy life because of their husbands, I´m pointing out that there is a higher social pressure for men to earn higher salaries.

  57. bill says:

    @stonetools: sure, there’s a line of refugees lined up to get into canada and sweden….maybe after the ice thaws and they can get in there “legally”……if they really want to. can’t imagine they’d be able to drop anchor babies and become wards of the state right off the bat?
    “OMG, there’s a natural disaster, thank God canada and sweden will help us through it” said no one ever…
    of course this would discriminate against same sex couples that can’t naturally have children, so we’d need a special benefit for them too, right?

    @Grewgills: yes, but the gov’t has little business regulating anyone’s industry pay scales aside from their own. and their own is pretty skewed already.

  58. Just nutha... says:

    @bill: Ok, now that we’ve proven that we can cherry pick examples of seemingly legitimate wage differences, could we remember that anecdote is not the singular of data and acknowledge that the problem may exist whether we wish to acknowledge it and apart from our ability to correct it?

  59. Stonetools says:

    I predict that conservatives are going to have a continuing problem with women, based on Doug’s response. His response has been to jump on one line of the President’s argument that we should do something about the continuing wage discrimination against women, smugly assert that “See? The problem isn’t so bad” and then imply that we should do nothing. That’s not a sufficient response, and women aren’t stupid. They’re going to know that’s not a sufficient response.
    There’s no magic bullet to the problem, and maybe women in high status professions can’t “have it all”. ( Neither can men, these days). But there are SOME things that can be done, as noted above ( paid parental leave, flex time, provision of on site day care, universal prekindergarten. I would add job sharing and offering telework options). All of that sounds like a heck of a lot that can be done. The party that promotes such options is that the party that can and should get women’s votes.

  60. TarianinMO says:

    @grumpy realist: I didn’t say wash your hands of the whole problem, but you seem to think that there is one answer to everything, which always results is additional laws on the books to mandate parity in outcome, not opportunity. There already are laws on the books including family leave, maternity leave, etc. and many employers do have provide other options that Stonetools mentions above: job sharing, telework, onsite day care, etc. If “parity” is the goal, my point is simply that for some jobs, they demand full time, permanent work that can’t just be “put on hold”. That is a choice for either gender and demanding that employers work around a choice to take time off for children is demanding parity where it doesn’t, and frankly shouldn’t, exist. It’s about choices and consequences.

  61. Andre Kenji says:

    Parental leave is necessary both for the parents and for the children, but that´s not going to diminish the wage gap, probably it has the opposite effect. That should be part of the discussion: women that wants to be mainly mothers should be protected and should have a safety net, women that wants to have mainly a career should have protections against discrimination.

  62. Stonetools says:


    Some of those things will rightly be the subject of legislation, like parental leave and universal prekindergarten. Guess which party opposes such legislation and in general, most efforts to make the workplace more family friendly?
    I think all of the options mentioned promote equality of OPPORTUNITY , not OUTCOME , since failure to provide these options unfairly penalize women more than men. I also think contrasting equality of opportunity with equality of outcome often presents a false dichotomy.

  63. God says:

    Male brains are on average 10% larger than females.

  64. TarianinMO says:

    @grumpy realist: It’s about choices. Some women choose different professions that are less risky, stressful or demanding or choose to stay home with their children. Your solution, apparently is to mandate that women and men are represented equally across all professions by quota. That’s not choice and frankly, it’s insulting. That’s not discrimination if it’s applied equally across genders. Throughout my life, I’ve been the primary breadwinner, a stay at home mom and somewhere in between. Those are choices. I don’t “wash my hands of the whole thing”, but I don’t advocating mandating employers work around my changing lifestyle choices.

  65. Just Me says:

    I also think many women choose the lower paying/fewer hours option because they want to be with their families.

    I work part time and during the hours my kids are in school because it want to be with my children. I also have a disabled child and I want to be available to him. The government paying for after school child care isn’t going to make me want to work more hours-I want to be with my kids-not have a career where somebody else is taking care of them.

    The decision to sacrifice career is often one women make because they are willing to make the sacrifice-not because the government should be giving them more child care.

  66. Grewgills says:


    sure, there’s a line of refugees lined up to get into canada and sweden….maybe after the ice thaws and they can get in there “legally”

    I know you meant that as snark, but there are quite a few people waiting to get in to Canada and pretty much every northern European country.

  67. grewgills says:

    Male bodies are on average more than 10% larger than womens’; what’s your point?

    I realize it’s a troll, but it’s been ages since I’ve had a pointless argument with God.

  68. DrDaveT says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    I´m talking about the fact that many women choose low paying jobs because they have husbands with high paying jobs.

    And she’s pointing out that this is nonsense, because not enough men have high paying jobs for their wives to count as “many women” on a national scale, even if every last one of them matched your proposed just-so story. So that’s not what’s driving the numbers.

  69. grumpy realist says:

    @TarianinMO: When did I say “parity in outcome”?

    What I’m saying is that the system as it is presently set up penalizes women for making the decision to become mothers. I think that this is a problem that should be investigated.

    If women see that they are continually being penalized financially for having had kids, one logical reaction may be to have fewer, or none.

    If you want your society to replace itself, you may want to change incentives. You can’t complain when women rationally decide they don’t want to take the lifetime hit to earnings and then turn around and sputter about the declining birth rate.

    At present, the U.S. treats childraising as something like a very expensive hobby, the cost of which should be more or less completely borne by the parents, and mainly the mother. And then it calls her immoral and unfeminine if she doesn’t want to sign up for this agenda.

    If the production of and raising of the next generation in society is in fact of any use to the government, then they can bloody well pay for it and stop shoving the cost off on individual families.