We at IWF have been pioneers at debunking the so-called wage gap-the difference between what men earn. Movement feminists have long claimed that a woman earns 75 cents to a man’s dollar.
When you factor in the life choices women make, the difference is something more like 2 cents. It all depends on looking at the realities behind the often-misleading numbers. So we were delighted to see Kay Hymowitz (whose delicious piece on the Adultery Ritual I cited yesterday) getting behind the figures:
Let’s begin by unpacking that 75-cent statistic, which actually varies from 75 to about 81, depending on the year and the study. The figure is based on the average earnings of full-time, year-round (FTYR) workers, usually defined as those who work 35 hours a week or more.
But consider the mischief contained in that “or more.” It makes the full-time category embrace everyone from a clerk who arrives at her desk at 9 am and leaves promptly at 4 pm to a trial lawyer who eats dinner four nights a week-and lunch on weekends-at his desk. I assume, in this case, that the clerk is a woman and the lawyer a man for the simple reason that-and here is an average that proofers rarely mention-full-time men work more hours than full-time women do. In 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 27 percent of male full-time workers had workweeks of 41 or more hours, compared with 15 percent of female full-time workers; meanwhile, just 4 percent of full-time men worked 35 to 39 hours a week, while 12 percent of women did. Since FTYR men work more than FTYR women do, it shouldn’t be surprising that the men, on average, earn more.
The way proofers finesse “full-time” can be a wonder to behold. Take a recent article in the Washington Post by Mariko Chang, author of a forthcoming book on the wealth gap between women and men. Chang cites a wage difference between “full-time” male and female pharmacists to show how “even when they work in the same occupation, men earn more.” A moment’s Googling led me to a 2001 study in the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association concluding that male pharmacists worked 44.1 hours a week, on average, while females worked 37.2 hours. That study is a bit dated, but it’s a good guess that things haven’t changed much in the last decade. According to a 2009 article in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, female pharmacists’ preference for reduced work hours is enough to lead to an industry labor shortage….
[P]roofers often make the claim that women earn less than men doing the exact same job. They can’t possibly know that. The Labor Department’s occupational categories can be so large that a woman could drive a truck through them. Among “physicians and surgeons,” for example, women make only 64.2 percent of what men make. Outrageous, right? Not if you consider that there are dozens of specialties in medicine: some, like cardiac surgery, require years of extra training, grueling hours, and life-and-death procedures; others, like pediatrics, are less demanding and consequently less highly rewarded. Only 16 percent of surgeons, but a full 50 percent of pediatricians, are women. So the statement that female doctors make only 64.2 percent of what men make is really on the order of a tautology, much like saying that a surgeon working 50 hours a week makes significantly more than a pediatrician working 37.