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Explaining the Gender Wage Gap

Explaining the Gender Wage Gap

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Critics complain that estimates of the gender wage gap are inaccurate oversimplifications. In reality, the statistic that women earn 77 cents to the male dollar reflects real structural barriers to equality deserving of attention.
Critics complain that estimates of the gender wage gap are inaccurate oversimplifications. In reality, the statistic that women earn 77 cents to the male dollar reflects real structural barriers to equality deserving of attention.

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Published by: Center for American Progress on May 19, 2014
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1 Center for American Progress | Explaining the Gender Wage Gap
Explaining the Gender Wage Gap
By Sarah Jane Glynn May 19, 2014
Te mos commonly cied saisic or he gender wage gap assers ha women earn only 77 cens or every dollar earned by men. However, a grea deal o conenion sur-rounds saisics measuring and quaniying he gender wage gap, and his conusion is no enirely wihou meri. Some o he conroversy around wage-gap esimaes and figures is a leas parly due o he ac ha, like many saisics, he exac figure changes slighly depending on he daa source used. Wih compeing saisics and a highly poliicized issue, he very exisence o he wage gap is ofen called ino quesion󲀔along  wih is significance and driving causes.Te “77 cens” ormulaion is a colloquialism󲀔shorhand or expressing a complex economic ruh. Simply pu, wha i conveys is he ac ha, i you average ou wha all women, working ull ime, year round, earn and compare ha number o wha all men working ull ime, year round, earn, you find ha women ake home 77 percen o wha men do. Te conusion around wage-gap calculaions is urher ueled when people misspeak abou he naure o he number, wha i reflecs, and o which groups o workers i reers. o be very clear, he 77-cens-on-he-dollar saisic does no compare men and  women doing idenical work. Tis has led o criics charging ha he 77-cen figure is a willul manipulaion o ruh ha does no accuraely reflec gender discrimina-ion in he workplace. In realiy, he 77-cen figure does capure some discrimina-ion, bu i also reflecs gender differences in jobs, hours worked, years o experience, educaional atainmen, or personal choices ha people make abou heir careers.
1
 Incorporaing hese significan acors is precisely wha makes he number valuable. Tis issue brie explains how he wage gap is calculaed, why he numbers are no all he same, and wha causes are driving he mos commonly cied 77-cen figure.
 
2 Center for American Progress | Explaining the Gender Wage Gap
Is the 77-cent figure accurate?
Like all saisics, he 77-cen saisic ells a paricular sory. I’s calculaed by dividing he median earnings o ull-ime, year-round, working women by he median earnings o ull-ime, year-round, working men, all rounded o he neares $100. Te wage gap looks slighly differen depending on which daa source is used in he calculaion. Oucomes look marginally differen, or example, depending on wheher  weekly or annual earnings are compared. Annual daa or 2012, he laes year or which daa are available, esimae ha women earn 77 percen o wha men do or working ull ime, year round,
2
 while weekly daa pu he esimae a 82.1 percen.
3
 Bu his is no an issue unique o calculaing he gender wage gap, since mos saisics vary slighly when pulling daa rom differen sources using differen measures o analysis. Similarly, he esimae o he median annual wage or all ull-ime workers regardless o gender󲀔$45,535 in 2012
4
󲀔is no he same as he median weekly wage or all ull-ime  workers󲀔$765 o $772 depending on he quarer
5
󲀔muliplied by 52.Te annual wage-gap saisic average is compiled by grouping ogeher many people󲀔and, as such, i has is caveas. In real lie, men and women ofen do no hold he same  jobs. Neiher do hey, on average, have he same years o experience, work he same hours, or equally share he responsibiliy o childbirh and child care. All o hese acors ranslae, o differen degrees, ino lower pay.  And i’s all o hese acors coming ogeher󲀔in he same way ha hey do in real lie󲀔ha gives he 77-cen comparison meaning. Te varied acors ha influence he wage gap󲀔differen jobs, differen hours, and differen work hisories󲀔are no purely he resul o women’s choices. Tere are significan srucural acors ha influence he deci-sions working women make ha resul in lower pay, and hese deserve as much atenion as over discriminaion.
What explains the wage gap
Occupational differences
One o he larges driving acors o he gender wage gap is he ac ha men and  women, on average, work in differen indusries and occupaions; his accouns or up o 49.3 percen o he wage gap, according o some esimaes.
6
 Women are much more likely han men o be clusered in jus a ew occupaions, wih nearly hal o all working  women󲀔44.4 percen󲀔employed in jus 20 occupaions, including secrearies and adminisraive assisans, regisered nurses, and school eachers. Meanwhile, only abou one-hird󲀔34.8 percen󲀔o men are employed in he op 20 occupaions or male  workers, including ruck drivers, managers, and supervisors.
7
 
 
3 Center for American Progress | Explaining the Gender Wage Gap
Ineresingly, only our occupaions󲀔reail salespersons, firs-line supervisors and managers o reail sores, cooks, and all oher managers󲀔appear in boh genders’ op 20 mos common occupaions.
8
 No only are women more likely o be concenraed in ewer ypes o jobs, hose jobs are more likely o be emale dominaed󲀔a ac ha ofen leads o lower wages. Female-dominaed indusries pay lower wages han male-dominaed indusries requiring similar skill levels, and he effec is sronger in jobs ha require higher levels o educaion.
9
 Women are more likely o be concenraed in low- wage work,
10
 and hey make up he majoriy o minimum-wage workers in he Unied Saes.
11
 Te op 10 occupaions or women all pay men more on average, including secrearies and adminisraive assisans, regisered nurses, eachers, and cashiers.
12
 In ac, ou o he 534 occupaions racked by he Bureau o Labor Saisics, only seven pay women more han men on average, such as respiraory herapiss and sock clerks.
13
 Te jobs ha pay women more on average employ abou 1.5 million women, or approxi-maely 3 percen o he ull-ime emale labor orce. Te highes wage premium or women is among respiraory herapiss, an occupa-ion where women earn 6.4 percen more han men󲀔he equivalen o an exra $62 per week. Ta is cerainly nohing o scoff a, bu i pales in comparison o he occupaions wih he wors wage gap or women: propery, real esae, and commu-niy associaion managers. In hese jobs, women earn, on average, 60.6 percen o  wha men do wihin he same occupaion󲀔he equivalen o losing an asonishing $473 dollars per week. Pu anoher way, he wage losses per week o women propery managers is abou equal o he wage premium ha women respiraory herapiss earn over wo monhs. So while he 77-cen figure compares working women and men in differen jobs, i is influenced by occupaional segregaion and he differen wages men and women earn even wihin he same ypes o jobs.  All his could be used o argue ha he wages or men and women would be he same i only women were no choosing radiionally emale-dominaed indusries. Bu in realiy, here are several acors ha lead women o radiionally emale-dominaed roles, including he gendered socializaion
14
 ha rains girls rom childhood o embody he sors o rais ha ranslae well ino radiionally eminine jobs cenered on nururing, service, and supporing oher people in heir jobs.
15
 As he ollowing secions illusrae, here are srucural acors ha influence he differen career pahs o men and women󲀔acors ha should be addressed o ensure ha all workers are able o work and conribue o he economy in ways ha make he mos o heir abiliies and srenghs.

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