Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Closing the Wage Gap: Fact or Fiction? How Much Money Would Women Lose?

What is the wage gap?
For most women, the pay gap is close to zero, as men’s and women’s average hourly earnings are nearly equal. Women tend to make less money in part because they work more hours, according to the Pew Research Center. According to one study from and McKinsey, a woman working full time, year-round would need to work nearly an additional six weeks to be paid the same as a man. Even when it comes to the size of a salary gap, a gap is still a gap. That means a woman working full time makes $40,564 for every $100,000 earned by a man. That’s based on a gender gap of 18 percent and as much as 28 percent when it comes to black and Latino women.

The wage gap in the US
About two-thirds of us in the US are paid at least slightly less than our male peers. It seems natural that, in our patriarchal society, our women are less likely to be CEOs, presidents, and venture capitalists. But what if closing the wage gap means that everyone loses? If we were talking about the UK, Norway, and the Nordic countries, it wouldn’t. In these countries, women’s pay is equal to men’s. Yet, in the UK, Norway, and Sweden, the rate of wage growth for women is lagging behind that for men. Why are women paid less? This is complicated. It all goes back to the 20th century. Historically, it was men who had the most physically demanding jobs. It’s been said that if a man suffered from sunstroke, he was likely to be thrown off a scaffold and possibly killed.

Closing The Wage Gap
Many of us know how many of our contemporaries make less than their male counterparts. We even know about the depressing percentage of our spouses’ paychecks that end up going to their male partners. We don’t talk about the much smaller percentage that ends up in the wallets of women. At least not in public. But with apologies to those politicians who dutifully talk about closing the gender wage gap, the truth is that women, especially mothers, continue to make less money than men—even when they have the same job and the same work experience. And although they make up 50 percent of the workforce, their numbers are declining.

What if closing the wage gap means everyone earns less?
That’s the debate that has dominated many news stories in recent weeks as Harvard’s Alicia Bailey and Columbia’s Lydia Frank have published papers with results that appear to close the so-called wage gap in the U.S. But is it that simple? Some reporters and experts have taken the data set and interpreted it in ways that oversimplify the issue. They’ve argued, for instance, that if men and women worked at the same jobs and hours, women wouldn’t earn as much. The reality is that the wage gap is a lot more complicated. How much women earn in the aggregate is largely a function of women’s levels of education, occupation, hours worked, race, and geography—factors that are influenced by each other and often operate in combination.

Statistics about the wage gap rarely point out that women working full-time in the U.S. still earn only 80% of men’s earnings. Nor do they reveal that women of color make even less than women white. I have recently written several articles about the gender wage gap and the issue is often discussed in mainstream media and by government officials. For instance, President Obama announced that his 2014 budget would include “reducing the pay gap,” but his budget did not discuss other important factors which contribute to the gender wage gap and it offered no policies or programs to address these other factors. Instead, it used the gender wage gap figure as a “sales pitch” in order to get more political support from women’s groups.

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