Annals Of Stupidity – Gender Pay Gap Is Really 51% Edition


Given that women who do the same job as men, in the same company as their male brethren, earn within 1% of what the men do, we might think that we’ve solved the gender pay gap. Because people doing the same job in the same place get the same pay. As this reality – and legal requirement – has sunk in we’ve had ever greater stretches to find something to whine about.

This is as with poverty of course. Given that in the rich countries we have in fact solved the problems of absolute want and destitution – as Barbara Castle herself agreed about the UK back in 1959 – we’ve had that morphing into a worry about relative poverty. Or, to give it the proper name, inequality. Given that we’re unlikely to have a working economy that doesn’t have different rewards for different skill packages and levels of application this means that nirvana has been reached – there will always be something to complain and campaign about.

We’re finding the same is true about this gender pay gap. That men and women get paid different amounts is entirely true when we average across the economy. The cause is that men and women make slightly different life choices upon the arrival of children. Quite why this is a problem in a mammalian species is never properly explained – mammals being the sexually dimorphic, lactating, things they are. But, you know, something to complain about.

The latest entry into this being the idea that the gender pay gap is, when properly measured, 51%. We should file this in the Annals of Stupidity. For the actual complaint is that women who don’t work earn less than men who do. A scandal, I’m sure we’ll all agree.

No, really, that is it:

The gender wage gap is actually worse than you think, with women earning slightly less than half of what men make over the long term, according to a report released Wednesday by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. The standard wage gap measure put out annually by the Census Bureau currently shows that women make 80 cents for every male dollar earned. (Earnings are even lower for women of color.) But the statistic misses the bigger picture, said economist Stephen Rose, a fellow at the Urban Institute who co-authored the paper. The census data only considers those men and women who actually worked, full-time, in one given year. But women are generally less likely to work full-time consistently throughout their careers. They scale back hours, or take time out of the labor force entirely, to raise children or to serve as caretakers for family members. To tease out the long-term impact of these disruptions, Rose and co-author Heidi Hartmann looked at earnings and pay over a 15 year period ― from 2001 to 2015. The data set they chose follows the same people over that time period. Viewed in this more longitudinal way, women made just 49 cents for every dollar a man made, on average.

I am not joking, this is not a spoof. They really are making a serious complaint that people who do not engage in paid labour earn less money than those who do engage in paid labour. This being something about which something must be done.

Women today earn just 49 cents to the typical men’s dollar, much less than the 80 cents usually reported. When measured by total earnings across the most recent 15 years for all workers who worked in at least one year, women workers’ earnings were 49 percent—less than half—of men’s earnings, a wage gap of 51 percent in 2015. Progress has slowed in the last 15 years relative to the preceding 30 years in the study.

Sigh. The full report is here.

The penalties of taking time out of the labor force are high—and increasing.
For those who took just one year off from work, women’s annual earnings were
39 percent lower than women who worked all 15 years between 2001 and 2015, a
much higher cost than women faced in the time period beginning in 1968, when
one year out of work resulted in a 12 percent cut in earnings. While men are also
penalized for time out of the workforce, women’s earnings losses for time out are
almost always greater than men’s.

You don’t work for pay you get less pay. The problem here is what?

There is in fact a solution here, a simple one, which is to understand that the basic human economic unit is the household, not the individual. How people thus divide their time as and when they reproduce becomes an internal matter to said household. And it’s worth pointing out that the household itself exists as that’s the way that humans successfully raise their children. Little of human biology makes sense without that insight, from concealed ovulation though the female orgasm – rare though that might be to the frustration of some – the large head size of babies relative to body weight, widened female pelvises and the extraordinarily long period of time human children are dependent upon their parents. Parents note, not parent.

But then you know, what price biology when there’s a political campaign to have a whine about?