Ten Things You Didn’t Know About The Gender Gap

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Everybody pretty much agrees that women make less money on average than men. Whether that means that women should march into their office and demand a raise is a completely different and much more complicated question. Below are 10 things you should know about the difference in men and women’s earnings, with charts!

1. Women who work part time actually earn more than men who work part time.


From the New York Times.

2. The wage gap is smaller the more educated and less married women are. But then there’s motherhood. Ouch. 


In this chart, where the shorter lines mean less inequity, sociologist Philip Cohen uses 2011 American Community Survey statistics to show that for Full Time Year Round (FTYR) workers, not having kids can shrink the wage gap by  6 or 11 percentage points. Marital status has more influence on the wage differential between men than education does: an unmarried High School educatd woman has a smaller wage gap than a PhD with kids. Being unmarried AND not having kids makes the race much closer. But beware, that doesn’t mean these figures are  just about time spent at work, which brings us to…

3. Women who work more than 50 hours a week often suffer a bigger gender gap than those who don’t. (See those long dark green lines above.)

4. The wage gap got worse in 2012.

rise in wage gap 2012

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics annual report.

This drop may have been recession-related, as industry hiring picked up and more better paying jobs became available for men again.

5. The wage gap is narrower for younger workers.


From the New York Times.

This may have something to do with changing ideas about women’s pay and legislative efforts such as the Lily Ledbetter Act, but is more probably because women now graduate from college in greater numbers than men and those women tend—at first—to be childless and unmarried. You’ll notice there’s a big difference after a woman turns 35, when she’s more likely to have children.

6. The smallest gender gap for college graduates is among people who studied architecture.

gender gap subject

That’s a weirdly big gap, and the only plausible explanation I have is that architecture is  a very male dominated industry, so the women who break through can charge a premium for their services.

7. The gender wage gap is smallest among African Americans and biggest among Asians.

wage gap by ethnicity

In 2012 Asian women earned 73% as much as their male counterparts, while Black women earned 90% as much as theirs. However Asian women’s median salary was $770, while Black women’s was $599. So there’s that.

8.  Only 25% of women work in occupations where women’s median earnings are less 77% of men’s median earnings.


9. Then again, only 25% of women work in occupations where women’s median earnings are more than 90% of men’s median earnings.

10. The country with the most gender equality in the world, not just in terms of wage parity but in terms of political empowerment and participation, health and survival and educational attainment is, drumroll please, Iceland, for the fifth year in a row. The U.S. is 23rd, right behind Burundi.

Check where other countries fall on this interactive map.


Here's one of countless examples showing that some of the most sophisticated women in the country choose to earn less while getting paid at the same rate as their male counterparts:

“In 2011, 22% of male physicians and 44% of female physicians worked less than full time, up from 7% of men and 29% of women from Cejka’s 2005 survey.” (See also

A thousand laws won't close that gap.

In fact, no law yet has closed the gender wage gap — not the 1963 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, not Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, not affirmative action (which has benefited mostly white women, the group most vocal about the wage gap -, not the 1991 amendments to Title VII, not the 1991 Glass Ceiling Commission created by the Civil Rights Act, not the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, not diversity, not the countless state and local laws and regulations, not the thousands of company mentors for women, not the horde of overseers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and not the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which is another feel-good bill that turned into another do-nothing law (good intentions do not necessarily make things better; sometimes, the path to a worse condition is paved with good intentions).... Nor will a "paycheck fairness" law work. 

That's because women's pay-equity advocates, who always insist one more law is needed, continue to overlook the effects of female AND male behavior:

Despite the 40-year-old demand for women's equal pay, millions of wives still choose to have no pay at all. In fact, according to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of "The Secrets of Happily Married Women," stay-at-home wives, including the childless who represent an estimated 10 percent, constitute a growing niche. "In the past few years,” he says in a CNN report at, “many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home.” (“Census Bureau data show that 5.6 million mothers stayed home with their children in 2005, about 1.2 million more than did so a decade earlier....” at If indeed a higher percentage of women is staying at home, perhaps it's because feminists and the media have told women for years that female workers are paid less than men in the same jobs — so why bother working if they're going to be penalized and humiliated for being a woman.) 

As full-time mothers or homemakers, stay-at-home wives earn zero. How can they afford to do this while in many cases living in luxury? Answer: Because they're supported by their husband, an “employer” who pays them to stay at home. (Far more wives are supported by a spouse than are husbands.)

The implication of this is probably obvious to most 12-year-olds but seems incomprehensible to, or is wrongly dismissed as irrelevant by, feminists and the liberal media: If millions of wives are able to accept NO wages, millions of other wives, whose husbands' incomes vary, are more often able than husbands to:

-accept low wages

-refuse overtime and promotions

-choose jobs based on interest first, wages second — the reverse of what men tend to do (The most popular job for American women as of 2010 is still secretary/administrative assistant, which has been a top ten job for women for the last 50 years.

-take more unpaid days off

-avoid uncomfortable wage-bargaining (

-work fewer hours than their male counterparts, or work less than full-time instead of full-time (as in the above example regarding physicians)

Any one of these job choices lowers women's median pay relative to men's. And when a wife makes one of the choices, her husband often must take up the slack, thereby increasing HIS pay. 

Women who make these choices are generally able to do so because they are supported — or, if unmarried, anticipate being supported — by a husband who feels pressured to earn more than if he'd chosen never to marry. (Married men earn more than single men, but even many men who shun marriage, unlike their female counterparts, feel their self worth is tied to their net worth.) This is how MEN help create the wage gap: as a group they tend more than women to pass up jobs that interest them for ones that pay well. 

More in "Will the Ledbetter Act Help Women?" at



"A thousand laws won't close that gap."

What about government supported childcare?  The US does not have this.  Why wouldn’t such laws strengthen the labor force attachment of US women – particularly when these laws have had this effect in other countries?  Do you believe US women are somehow uniquely immune to such laws?  If so, why?  And if you answer, please refrain from pretending that you are uniquely omniscient and can see into the future or that you know the "natural" inclinations and motivations of all women’s (and men's) souls.

Also -- your argument that men's and women's different rationales and motivations explains the wage gap holds little water, particularly for less educated groups.  In today's economy the large majority of women go back to work after having kids and this is even more the case among those without a college degree, where men have had particularly unstable employment and earnings for the last several decades.  The REASON that women choose to invest in their education and get a college degree MUCH MORE OFTEN THAN MEN is because they KNOW they cannot rely on a husband's wages.  In fact, most women are strongly suspicious as to whether they can rely on a man at all -- for monetary support, childcare, fidelity, or anything.  The idea that the wage gap exists because women bank on their ability to stay home with a wealthy husband that maintains their "luxurious" lifestyle is such a ludicrous idea it made me laugh out loud. This is certainly not the case among the majority of women of younger generations.



"What about government supported childcare?"  This euphemism makes me laugh out loud...just before I shake my head in disbelief.  Rephrase for clarity: How about we take more money away from everyone to pay for another "I need my life to be better at your expense" program?