Economically speaking: The meaning of equal pay

Drew Becker
Staff Writer

As some of you may know Equal Pay Day was last Tuesday (April 8th). It is placed on that very day to represent the amount of extra time, additive to the prior year, it took a female to earn what her male counterpart made last year alone, on average. This is all, thankfully, a misconception that all women make only 77 cents for every dollar man earns.

This is because the whole idea of women being paid unequally for the same job is, overall, untrue. Although discrimination has and, unfortunately, still occurs is true, but it is quite rare; these instances cannot simply be blamed for the gap. The reason for this “gap” can be easily explained, and any woman that would like to make the same as her male counterpart will have few, if any, problems in general.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, single women who never married earned 96% of men’s earnings in 2012. Although that proves that wages are nearly even, when women are left unmarried, this still does seem unfair. Many men can be married, but not see such a large gap between their non-married male colleagues, so why must we exclude women? This, however, makes a lot of sense. Marriage many times brings forth children, which can cause a significant difference in the wife’s income. 

equalpayThe BLS reports that full-time work, although it may seem standardized, can lead to large differences. For instance, men are almost twice as likely to work over 40 hours per week, while women were nearly twice as likely to work only 35 to 39 hours. When held constant, at 40 hours, women earned 88% of male earnings. Furthermore, although unquantifiable, mothers many times choose to leave the labor market for periods of time when they have children, leaving them with fewer years of work experience. Also, many working mothers choose more flexibility, be it working from home or flexible hours, these benefits typically lead to lower pay. 

Another large determinant is women’s choice in educational path. Women are much more likely to choose majors in the liberal arts or education, while men are more likely to major in business or STEM majors. This leads to a bias in earnings, since majors females favor lead to lower paying jobs, overall.

Furthermore, women are significantly less likely to fall victim to a work-related death. In 2012 only 8% of workplace related death victims were female. This makes it quite evident that women avoid most of these career choices which, to attract workers, are forced to pay higher wages.

Lastly, some will continue to claim the wage gap is significant and is solely based upon discrimination, but they should look to logic. Simple economics explains that any non-discriminating workplace would consume all of the cheaper labor, in this case women, if they really were willing/able to be hired at a lower cost. I, personally, have yet to hear of any large organizations solely staffed by females.

It is quite obvious that there are far too many variables to ever compare male and female earnings, on such an aggregate level, and reach significant results. Unfortunately, if the female youth continue to see these discouraging numbers they will themselves become discouraged. Until this conventional wisdom disappears many females will feel discriminated against, which will lead to an overall effect for the naïve to believe they are less valued in society. 

Furthermore, this could have a terribly adverse effect on the female youth, whom may aspire to much less than they have the potential to be, just because of rash and irresponsible interpretation of numbers.

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