Women’s 77 cents to men’s dollar: What it really means

Foreword

Over the past four decades, the media, which are supposed to objectively reflect all views, have overwhelmingly reflected pay-equity advocates’ view on the gender-wage gap. The effect of this long-running lack of objectivity and balance is, I think, to create in the advocates’ minds an entrenched and immutable perception that no other view is possible and that pay discrimination against women is not whimsy but widely accepted fact that is completely beyond dispute.
In this atmosphere over time, many pay-equity advocates have, I believe, unconsciously built up such a fragility that a view contrary to their own often inflames them and renders them utterly unreceptive to that view. My pay-equity view here is practically guaranteed to inflame and anger these advocates, who throughout their adult life have been fed by the intellectually dishonest media the “incontrovertible fact” of wage discrimination against women.

The advocates aside, ordinary women can hardly be blamed for believing they are paid less than the men doing the same work at their company. Every day of the year intelligent, sophisticated people tell them what the National Women’s Law Center tells them in the very first sentence of its position statement on equal pay (if such important, influential groups as this believe women are unfairly paid less, it must be true; why would they lie?): “American women who work full-time, year-round are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts.”

Such slogans have inundated society for the past 30 years, angering women and rendering them unwilling to hear other views on the gender wage gap. Source: dayofthegirl.org

Such slogans have inundated society for the past 30 years, angering women and rendering them unwilling to hear other views on the gender wage gap. Source: dayofthegirl.org

When the sexes choose their jobs, they tend to be influenced by “what the market will bear.” (Perhaps to better understand this, think of when, say, we want to find the right price for a car we plan to sell: we may look through the local newspapers to get an idea of the prices being asked by others with the same car in roughly the same condition. We can’t ask a lot more than the average, because prospective buyers won’t “bear” it. Thus, our price is set by “what the market will bear.”)

The vast majority of women are (still) either financially supported by a man or anticipate being supported by a man who they consider the primary provider. So most women, influenced by the support of a husband (often unconsciously*), or influenced by the anticipated support of a husband, are able to bear lower pay than men, who as the primary provider are expected to do most or all of the spouse supporting. Many women, married women in particular, might be comparable to teens who live with, and are supported by, their parents and who are able to accept a job that pays little, while their parents must earn enough to support both the teens and themselves. Women as a supported group thus have been able to bear the low-paying jobs that men as supporters generally have been unable to bear. Women often can regard their husband as an “employer” who pays them to work at home tending the hearth and raising the children. So they often need not necessarily seek a higher-paying real employer.

An example of why even the most educated, sophisticated women average less even in the same profession: “In 2011, 22% of male physicians and 44% of female physicians worked less than full time, up from 7% of men and 29% of women from Cejka’s 2005 survey.” -amednews.com, March 26, 2012

Men, after society’s nearly 40 years of pursuing a “gender equality” that has been mostly the righting of wrongs for only one sex, are by and large still expected to be, as stated, at least the primary provider who will take up the slack when the wife leaves the workforce, usually at a time of her own choosing. They are expected to be ever ready to handle most or all the family’s expenses.

“Primary” providers thus typically experience the same old lifestyle restrictions that sole providers have always experienced. (This indicates that little has changed for men, except that perhaps the pressure on them to earn even more money has increased, as women increase their own earnings and then, because of hypergamy, often increase their expectations of men.)

“By the late 1990s, the proportion of women who were ‘marrying up’ had almost doubled to 38 percent. Similar patterns are seen across much of Europe, the US and Australia. Hakim said many women did not want to admit that they were looking for a higher earning partner. They even keep the fact secret from the men they are dating, Catherine Hakim said.” -Eleanor Harding | 4th January 2011 | DailyMail.co.uk

So if a man expects to marry and become a sole or primary provider, he naturally feels unable to bear the pay of a secretary or a clerk-typist. (From the single man’s view, not even high-earning women want to marry a male secretary or clerk-typist.) The pay from such jobs seldom is enough to provide for a spouse and family. To the extent the child-caring role has led to women being barred from high-paying jobs, the male’s primary or sole provider role continues to bar men from – in effect prices them out of – lower-paying jobs, jobs which might interest them more or offer the flexibility usually unavailable in the better-paying jobs, the flexibility men often need to become more involved with their children.

A natural outcome of the job choices made by the sexes is women’s 77 cents (currently) to men’s dollar. This figure is arrived at by comparing the sexes’ median incomes: women’s median is 77 percent of men’s. In 2009, the median income of full-time, year-round workers was $47,127 for men, compared to $36,278 for women or 77 percent of men’s median.

What are we to make of this wage gap: “In his book ‘Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People are More Successful,’ economist Daniel Hamermesh contends that good-looking men earn approximately 17% more money than not so good-looking men….” Should less attractive men sue to get pay equal to that of attractive men? -CNN’s The Chart Blog, July 12, 2012

Median income is defined thusly: 50% of workers earn above the figure and 50% below. Think about what this really means when you hear that women’s 77 cents to men’s dollar proves women earn less than men for the same work: A lot of female workers in the higher ranges of women’s median income earn more — often much more — than a lot of male workers in the lower ranges of men’s median. Which is why the October 2012 Atlantic Monthly can report: “In nearly 40 percent of American marriages, the wife earns more than the husband” – quite at odds with “women earn 77 cents to men’s dollar.”

Moreover, “women’s 77 cents to men’s dollar” doesn’t account for the number of hours worked each week, experience, seniority, training, education or even the job description itself. It compares all women to all men, not people in the same job with the same experience. So the salary of a 60-year-old male computer engineer with 30 years at his company is weighed against that of a young first-year female teacher. Also, men are much more likely than women to work two jobs; hence, more often than women, a man earning $40,000 a year from his two jobs ($20,000 each) is weighed against a woman earning $25,000 from her one job, so that he appears to be unfairly earning nearly twice as much as she.

“Because people are prone to believe what we’re told, especially when it comes from a person of authority, an incorrect belief can spread like a virus between people. This willingness to believe makes us susceptible to being fooled.” -”Your Bleeped Up Brain,” -History 2 channel, August 17, 2013

“The more often you hear an assertion made, the more likely you are to believe it, regardless of its objective truth.” -”Your Bleeped Up Brain,” History 2 channel, August 3, 2013, “Memory”

This is how slogans like women’s 77 cents for the same work get legs.**

No doubt many pay equity advocates believe that “greedy, profit-obsessed” employers would hire only illegal immigrants for their cheaper labor if they could get away with it. Or move their business to another country to save money. Or replace older workers with younger ones for the same reason.

So these pay equity advocates, especially those who insist that even women in the higher income ranges are paid 77 cents to men’s dollar in the same work, need to answer this question:

Why wouldn’t employers hire only women if, as the advocates say, employers get away with paying females less than males for the same work?

_____________________

This might be my shortest explanation of the gender wage gap:

Picture a couple on the ballroom dance floor. She’s going round and round because he’s going round and round, and he’s going round and round because she’s going round and round. Such a symbiotic relationship is also played out in the gender wage gap: Husbands earn more because wives earn less, and wives earn less because husbands earn more.

______________________________

*I say “unconsciously” because I often hear wives make such statements as “I quit work because I wanted to spend more time with the children.” (Never mind that the husband might want to do the same.) In the 1970s, my first wife, over a year before she decided to have a child, quit her job suddenly (without telling me beforehand) because “I was bored.”  In both cases, the real reason was unconscious: they left their employed work because they had a husband who supported them, who then in effect became their “non-boss employer” who paid them to stay at home. If they had been single, they would not have quit working.

**The slogan “women’s 77 cents to men’s dollar” caught on because of an “availability cascade.” An availability cascade is a self-reinforcing cycle that explains the development of certain kinds of collective beliefs. A novel idea or insight, usually one that seems to explain a complex process in a simple or straightforward manner, gains rapid currency in the popular discourse by its very simplicity and by its apparent insightfulness. Its rising popularity triggers a chain reaction within the social network: individuals adopt the new insight because other people within the network have adopted it, and on its face it seems plausible. The reason for this increased use and popularity of the new idea involves both the availability of the previously obscure term or idea, and the need of individuals using the term or idea to appear to be current with the stated beliefs and ideas of others, regardless of whether they in fact fully believe in the idea that they are expressing. Their need for social acceptance, and the apparent sophistication of the new insight, overwhelm their critical thinking. [Emphasis by Male Matters.]

About these ads

About Male Matters USA

See About the Author
This entry was posted in Gender Wage Gap and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Women’s 77 cents to men’s dollar: What it really means

  1. i bet you love santorum too says:

    My goodness, you are one ignorant old man

    • I have a saying:

      When people attack me personally instead of presenting a reasoned disagreement about what they specifically argue against, they signal they have nothing to add and can’t admit they concede the argument.

      Insults and outrage are not arguments.

    • jfon says:

      Nice argument, genius.
      Doesn’t matter if it’s right, all that matters is that it OFFENDS you, of course.

  2. NObama says:

    People that work more hours, make more money! Men work more hours. The myth that women are discriminated against in the workplace is absolutely ridiculous and I’m sick of hearing about it. If anything, women have more opportunities than men to succeed in 2012. Look at health care for example. Women make up at least half of medical school classes, of dental school classes, of pharmacy school classes – in spite of the fact that their careers will be, on average, much shorter than their male counterparts. They take maternity leave, raise families, and on average just don’t have the career longevity that men do. We are already facing health care provider shortages, and this isn’t helping anything. Leave it to the liberal media and feminists to spread these lies about wage disparity among men and women, and leave it to their minions to believe them blindly. Men are the most discriminated against people in this country in 2012, especially white men. Mainstream media calls the Republican party “the party of old white men”. I’m sorry, but is that not racism? Insert any other race into that sentence and it is. We live in sad times. I bet those old white men didn’t see that coming when they were dying on the battlefields of history to keep us free…

    • NObama, thanks for the reply. I wish more people could grasp what you have grasped.

      But too many men are restrained by what I describe in “WHY SO FEW MEN PROTEST ANTI-MALE SEXISM (Or: Why Men Fear Women) at “http://malemattersusa.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/why-so-few-men-protest-anti-male-sexism-or-why-men-fear-women/

    • hisor says:

      Why men dont take paternity leave or have shorter careers? Then it would be equally like women… Why they dont do those for the family? Why only women? The equal pay, family time, more equal working hours and ect would be so much more real. The women breadwinners are increasing, women earning more are increasing. Why men dont change? Why not to spend more time with the family? I dont get it. Women are bashing them for not participating in family life all the time… Why they dont react?

      Feminists dont lie… men really do not get involved for some reason…. even thou women are encouraging them…

      • hisor says:

        Why men dont take paternity leave or have shorter careers? Then it would be equally like women… Why they dont do those for the family? Why only women? The equal pay, family time, more equal working hours and ect would be so much more real. The women breadwinners are increasing, women earning more are increasing. Why men dont change? Why not to spend more time with the family? I dont get it. Women are bashing them for not participating in family life all the time… Why they dont react?

        Feminists dont lie… men really do not get involved for some reason…. even thou women are encouraging them… Feminists and male activists fight for the same goals, men want to spend less time at work and many women want to work more… yet men dont use this oportunity to work less as women are working…

        The wage disparity exists because women are unable to work more hours due to caregiving, house work… Men dont tend to participate in those and are not working less outside of home. There are 70% of working mothers… the single women earn 93ct to a mens dollar…

      • hisor says:

        What I mean is, family is more important….Women work quite a lot but men work too much… And the work Im talking about is only the one a person enjoys doing,not for money… men should use working moms to spend more time at home

  3. J Hendricks says:

    Yes, women tend to work less hours and take more time off for child care. Men, in general, will not do this. Women are the ones that have to deal with pregnancy, and an attack about this being personal choice is ludicrous. Both women and men want to have children, if women did not have children we would have far more troubles than we currently do and the population dwindles. Ignoring pregnancy for the moment, who does most of the child care? Women do, they are the ones that must leave work to care for children because most men do not do this. Should women be punished for this? I think not. If men were to take some of the burden of house work and child care, women would be able to work more hours.

    I think that there is a problem in the overall system for both men and women. Both genders need more time for their personal life. It should not be the sole burden for either gender to “bring home the bacon” or “care for the household.” Men and women should be responsible for both and the system should be designed in such a way to allow this to happen.

    I disagree that women can take lower paying jobs because they can “bear” it. I know several women that are the breadwinners. Their husbands either do not have jobs or do not have high paying jobs. Do they deserve less money than their male equivalents?

    To NObama, I have seen discrimination happen often in my line of work. Sometimes it is based on the system itself. I have seen monetary discrimination, heard terrible comments made to women, and I have seen work given to a less capable man due simply to the fact that he is a man. They are not making it up, it does exist.

    • jfon says:

      “heard terrible comments made to women”

      Yeah sure, which is only objectionable because omg, a woman is having to endure what men have to endure at work all the time.

      “and I have seen work given to a less capable man due simply to the fact that he is a man”

      Oh isn’t that convenient? I’m sure you can prove you knew the whole story of what you “saw”. *eyeroll*

  4. J Hendricks, thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Let me respond to some of your major points, in the order that you made them in.

    1. “Men, in general, will not do this.” That’s because men in general must raise the income so that the wife can raise the children. Women agree to and enforce this as much as men do. You’d be surprised how many men would love to switch with their wives. So saying men “will not do this” — as if they refuse if given the choice — is no more valid than saying wives “will not go to work” if given the choice. A stay-at-home wife forces the man to be a stay-at-work husband. See “Wives belong at home with the kids” at http://malemattersusa.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/wives-belong-at-home-with-the-kids/

    2. “Women are the ones that have to deal with pregnancy, and an attack about this being personal choice is ludicrous.” So you’re saying every pregnant woman was raped? Think about what you said! Of course, it’s usually a couple’s decision, but I never met a woman who didn’t want to get pregant did so just to “obey” her husband. In my experience, it’s the woman who decides if and when she gets pregnant. And nothing I said is “an attack” on anything. Where are you coming from?

    3. “Ignoring pregnancy for the moment, who does most of the child care? Women do, they are the ones that must leave work to care for children because most men do not do this.” See above. You simply repeated what you already said in different words. You come close to describing an Orwellian society in which women bear children by order of the State. When women have a child, the husband often has to work extra hours. But you fail to understand such things because you have never put yourself in the shoes of a man.

    4. “Should women be punished for this?” What on earth are you talking about?!

    5. “If men were to take some of the burden of house work and child care, women would be able to work more hours.” This is an old feminist sexism. Husbands and wives do an equal amount of work when employed hours and house work are totaled.

    6. “I think that there is a problem in the overall system for both men and women. Both genders need more time for their personal life. It should not be the sole burden for either gender to “bring home the bacon” or “care for the household.” Men and women should be responsible for both and the system should be designed in such a way to allow this to happen.” I hate to say this, but you come across as a socialist who has not the vaguest idea of what drives an economy.

    7. “I disagree that women can take lower paying jobs because they can “bear” it. I know several women that are the breadwinners.” So do I. I said “women as a group” can bear lower pay than men — for reasons you seem either unable to comprehend or purposely ignore.

    8. “Do they deserve less money than their male equivalents?” I hate to say this, but in your context you completely misused this statement, conflating separate ideas that must be addressed separately.

    9. “I have seen monetary discrimination” So have I. Six months after I began employment at a finance company, another man was hired at a higher salary to do the exact same thing I did. He had been wooed from a competitor.

    10. “I have seen work given to a less capable man due simply to the fact that he is a man.” And in the reproductive sphere, I have seen children given to a less capable woman due simply to the fact that she was a woman. Any discrimination against women in the productive sphere can be matched by discrimination against men in the REproductive sphere. See “A Male Matter’s Explanation of The World of Children/The World of Work” http://malemattersusa.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/a-male-matter-explanation-of-the-world-of-childrenthe-world-of-work/

    My conclusion is that you are greatly threatened by my views and you respond in the traditional manner of most feminists. Sad to say, I believe your ideology (“men control things; women are victims”) has rendered you either blind or obtuse and simply unable to understand views that oppose yours.

  5. hisor says:

    I believe that both males and females are guilty here. There are many men who would never be a caregiver/home stay dad.. There are many women who would never leave caregiving… It is unfair for both. Unequal pay exists because society lives by stereotypes of gender roles. Society expects women to leave their jobs and stay at home, men-to be a breadwinner. This should be decided independedly in the family. However, stay at home dads are increasing in numbers, when this trend is popular the whole system of expectations on a gender will crumble. To achieve equal working hours on avarage scale men and women should be encouraged to change… I know many women who would change positions with their husbands if their husbands agreed to it. So dont say that it is just men who would like to change places with women and women disagree. The same happens on both sides of genders. And its not a home stay parent problem, flexible hours, part time jobs and ect are included. Feminists got rid of the idea that women have to stay at home, females go to work now. In 21 century its time to make society believe that men are NOT supposed to be a breadwinner, its time to encourage caregiving. So that both would have a choice in this…. Feminists and male activists fight for the same thing, they just understand discrimination against each other differently. What men see as privileges of women the very same women see it as discrimination, what women see as privileges of men, males see as discrimination. This works both ways. This whole role thing discriminates both

  6. MJ says:

    There are some assumptions referenced here that are in flux. First, the marriage rates in the U.S. (and Europe) are in significant decline. Hence, there is less and less of a social structure to support one spouse staying at home. Secondly, one spouse staying at home to raise children is going away. 40% of births are to unmarried women. It is hard to imagine staying-at-home with no income. Lastly, there are a number of studies I recall from my MBA that do illustrate bias. I recall a specific study where the same exact business case was sent out for VC investment. Half of the packets included a man’s name on the letter head/resume and the other half included a woman’s name. Guess which business case overwhelmingly got approved more often and with more funding.

    I include the below link. Orchestras are historically male skewed. Interestingly enough: once musicians were put behind screens, the number of females hired doubled.

    http://www.nber.org/papers/w5903

    In closing, this is more anecdotal: I put my career first and frequently have made choices to reinforce this; i.e. I have moved to 8 different states in the last decade to advance my career. I do not want to have children and my relationship status doesn’t impact the hours I put in to my job. I have extensive international travel as part of my duties and welcome the opportunity. Not every woman wants to marry/have kids/play 2nd fiddle.

    Give it another generation and you *will* see more parity.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s