The Disappearing Gender Pay Gap

Brief Analyses | Economy

No. 833
Thursday, August 04, 2016
by Colin Combs

The claim that women only make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes is usually followed by a call for a whole new wave of regulations and pay mandates to stop this discrimination. The gender pay gap is undeniably real; men earn more than women, on average. The question is “Why?”

What Is the Wage Gap? The “77 cents to the dollar” statistic comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 Current Population Survey. As of 2014, the ratio was bumped up to 79.5 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which calculates things a bit differently, puts the number for 2014 median weekly earnings closer to 83 percent.

What these statistics reveal is not what people are being paid for the same work, but what the average full-time working woman makes against the average full-time working man. It ignores differences in occupation. The average surgeon makes more than the average librarian, so if more men choose to be surgeons and more women choose to be librarians (which they do), this will be reflected in their average wage. This difference is due to their professional choices. It is, in fact, unequal pay for unequal work.

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