Women earn less than men, right? Not, it turns out, among a very specific set of women and men: “In 2008,” reports Conor Dougherty of The Wall Street Journal, “single, childless women between ages 22 and 30 were earning more than their male counterparts in most U.S. cities.” Reach Advisors, a consumer-research firm, crunched the numbers from the Census Bureau to arrive at this statistic. Women’s incomes in this group are “8% greater on average,” largely due to their greater rate of obtaining college degrees. But what do these numbers mean? Are they evidence that the pay gap is being closed, that men are falling behind, or that childlessness is more required than ever for a woman to succeed?

  • ‘Unlikely to Be Indicative of a Larger, Penetrating Trend,’ writes Daily Finance’s Melly Alazraki: “as the report points out, women’s wages tend to stagnate after they give birth.”

  • Women Only Ahead When It Doesn’t Count as Much “Women may have a pay advantage for a brief period, but that advantage disappears when the real power and money are on the table,” observes 24/7 Wall St.’s Douglas McIntyre.

The unfortunate side of the pay picture for women is that companies recruit and put women into middle management jobs where they make as much as their male counterparts, especially in the ten or fifteen years after college. The situation changes swiftly as the two groups reach the point at which they can climb into upper management. The number of studies that show that women cannot make it into top jobs and on boards of directors are legion. What appears to be a trend with promise when women are young is cut off as they move higher on the corporate ladder.

  • That May Change Time’s Belinda Luscombe, under a headline including the words “at last,” appears more celebratory. She talks to one of the authors of the study, James Chung of Reach Advisors. Apparently, Chung thinks the effect of childbearing may change: he “believes that women now may have enough leverage that their financial gains may not be completely erased as they get older.” Also, Luscombe points out, the cause and effect here isn’t quite what it seems: women are making more earlier because they are highly educated, and “highly educated women tend to marry and have children later.” Thus, those with more earning power are also the ones more likely to be “single and childless” in their twenties.

  • What About the Men? Carrie Lukas at National Review finds Luscombe’s tone “troubling,” in that it “suggests that we should all be celebrating the idea of women dominating the workplace.” It’s good that women are doing well, Lukas says, but “all of us–men and women alike–should be concerned if men’s prospects dim.” She’s also concerned that “women’s higher earnings may actually be a symptom of hardship: More women are having to work more since the men in their lives can’t provide for the family alone or because they are providing for themselves.” Lukas also has another interesting notion: the numbers, on the other hand, are “good news” in that they “should put to rest the idea that the traditional wage gap has been a product of sexism.”