We have all heard the claim that women only earn 78 cents for every dollar that a man makes but is it really true? Before we dive into the hardcore economics and statistics lets get one thing straight. The 78 cents number that you constantly see is derived by taking all the money women earn in a year and dividing it by all the money men earn in a year. These simple derivation does not consider any other factors like prior experience, job types, or average hours worked a week. So, does the gender wage gap actually exist?
A 2009 study by the US department of Labor that examined more than 50 peer-reviewed papers concluded that the 23-cent wage gap “may be almost entirely the result of individual choices being made by both male and female workers.” This study also showed when proper factors are considered the “adjusted” gender wage gap is somewhere between 4.8 and 7 cents. The Association of University Women (AAUW) also conducted a similar study and found an “adjusted” wage gap of only 6.6 cents. However, the AAUW study did note that there is still evidence of residual bias against women in the workplace. Although we must also consider that men tend to do more dangerous and more physically demanding jobs that tend to pay well compared to other jobs that require similar educational background. According to one study conducted by the Department of Labor between 1992 and 1996 32,000 work related fatalities were recorded but women only accounted for 8% of these incidents (https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/archive/women-experience-fewer-job-related-injuries-and-deaths-than-men.pdf).
While a gender wage gap of 4.8 to 7 cents is still not acceptable, it does paint a better and more fair picture of current gender discrimination in the United States today. We need to strive to make all people, regardless of skin color, gender, or creed, equal in all parts of society. In order to accomplish such an ambitious goal the first step is painting an accurate picture of where we are today and where we plan to be in the future.