Is The “Wage Gap” Real?

Chair with men's close higher up than chair with women's clothes depicting the wage gap
Photograph by Jeff Harris/Time; Prop Styling by Renee Flugge/Time

Is the wage gap real? Do women truly make twenty-three cents less on the dollar compared to men, as so often claimed? Or is this claim just an example of the ignorance that comes hand in hand with the victimization culture of America in 2018?

Organizations like the American Association of University Women (AAUW) and the National Organization for Women (NOW) continue to scream out the same nonsense. “77 cents to the dollar,” “oppressive white men” and so forth. Like most ideas accepted by these groups, it’s an easy conclusion. Of course, women are oppressed. Of course, the white male is what is holding you down. These truths sound quite derivative of early Marxist theory (specifically that of those such as Antonio Gramsci and Giovani Gentile). While it may be an easy or comfortable conclusion, it is a false one. This assumption, by in large, ignores every quality that goes into your wage other than gender.

Factors That Create This Disparity

Saying that women earn 77% of the median earnings of men would be true. Saying that they earn 77 cents on the dollar, however, would not be. That would imply that women are paid less for doing the exact same job, in the exact same location, for the exact same amount of time. Factors such as college degrees, availability, willingness to relocate, danger of jobs, among other variances. There is going to be a disparity in pay as long as there is one in the underlying factors that determine pay.

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A study from¬†Georgetown University found women to be the overwhelming majority in 4 of the 5 lowest paying majors. However, 4 of the 5 highest paying majors saw men as the majority. This matters, you can’t expect the salary of a doctor with a social sciences degree.¬† The choices made among those in the same career field prove just as important. Statistically, men are more willing be available around the clock, as opposed to the standard 9-5 shift. Men also tend to be more willing to relocate for their work. The U.S Department of Labor found that on days they worked, men worked 52 more minutes than women on average.

The U.S Labor Department also concedes that once these factors are accounted for, the gap shrinks to somewhere around 6-7%. This small disparity has never been given an absolute explanation. Economists on both sides are still unsure regarding its underlying cause. A large faction believes this is what accounts for the risk employers face hiring women over men in regards to maternity leave.

Choices Matter

The numbers fed to you on a daily basis about the oppressed women in America aren’t entirely accurate. Choices matter in life. Too often we try and pretend men and women are the exact same in their choices and preferences. This is not true either. This is not to say that difference equals inferiority of course. All people have the same intrinsic value. But saying that men and women are the exact same in every instance is simply fighting fire with ignorance. People should be able to stand up together (regardless of politics) to fight tyranny and oppressiveness. There must be a standard of unity among people to fight for equality. But labeling all of America or all men as oppressive and evil only divides us.

By criticizing someone based on their gender or race, you only feed into the hatred and racism/sexism you intended to fight against. America is the greatest experiment in the history of man; it has withstood economic collapse, wars both internal and external, and everything in between. This is because this nation is great, and so are the people who live in it. America thrives when its people thrive. Though there will always be disagreement, the American people must be capable of finding common ground in issues like this. In sharing morality, reason, and logic. If we cannot stand together to fight true oppression, then America itself cannot stand.

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