NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Lag in Women's Pay Less Than Meets the Eye

May 11, 2000

Feminist activists are coming up with formulas which supposedly show that the wage gap between women and men is still large. But experts point out that when relevant factors are considered, the degree of difference is quite small -- and the gap is narrowing, not getting larger.

  • In 1999, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that women's average hourly wages were 84 percent of men's -- up from 82 percent in 1998.
  • Statisticians say hourly wages are a better means of comparison than salaries, because women work fewer hours than men.
  • While women earn well over half of all BA and MA degrees awarded, half of medical degrees and 40 percent of law and business degrees, they still frequently choose specialties that pay less.
  • Fewer major in math and computers, and more major in history and education.

Time in the work force also affects average wages. The year 1978 marked the first time that more than half of U.S. women were in the work force. So fewer women than men have the experience to command higher salaries.

A number of independent studies have compared the earnings of equally qualified men and women. The differences turned out to be a few pennies on the dollar.

Source: Diana Furchtgott-Roth (American Enterprise Institute), "Equal or Equivalent? Feminist Activists Ignore the Data About Women's Pay," Investor's Business Daily, May 11, 2000.


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