NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The "Equal Pay Day" Myth

April 27, 2012

The Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in the fourth quarter of 2011 that the median full-time working woman made 81.6 percent of the wages of the median fulltime working man.  Since then, big government, feminist organizations and liberal politicians repeat this "wage gap" statistic, implying that discrimination is its cause, says Carrie Lukas, managing director of the Independent Women's Forum.

This, however, is simply not the case.  Rather, the publication and intense focus on this presented wage gap is an exercise in statistical manipulation, espousing a conclusion that is unreal.  Aggregately comparing full-time working men and women without holding other factors constant is disingenuous -- an analysis that accounts for hours worked, education and industry type would be more enlightening.

Incorporating the number of hours worked variable, it can be found that while both men and women in the original analysis were vaguely labeled "fulltime," this fails to capture hours put in.

  • The Department of Labor's 2011 Time Use Survey shows that fulltime working men work about 5 percent more time at work each day on the job.
  • Therefore, it should hardly be a surprise that workers who work more do in fact earn more.

Similarly, the sectors that men and women tend to dominate have to be taken into account:

  • Men dominate fields like construction, manufacturing and trucking -- jobs with higher personal risk (both in job security and safety), but with salary premiums to compensate.
  • Women cluster in service industries, teaching, health care and the social services -- jobs with fewer risks, more comfortable conditions, regular hours and greater flexibility.
  • While radical feminists argue that women are socially pressured into these low-paying positions, the same argument can be made that men, pressured to be the bread-winner, sacrifice comfortable positions to make a better salary.

Finally, children create an important variable.  Two new parents tend to respond oppositely to having a child.  The mother tends to seek a positions with greater flexibility and time off (sacrificing salary in the process), while the father actually seeks further salary gains.  When these and other factors are taken into account, the wage gap usually disappears and sometimes even reverses.

Source: Carrie Lukas, "The 'Equal Pay Day' Myth," Independent Women's Forum, April 2012.

For text:


Browse more articles on Economic Issues