One of the concerns of working women is the “pay gap” – the alleged payment to women of 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man. But there are more behind these numbers than first meets the eye, because women work different hours, major in different subjects, and choose different careers.
The 78 percent figure comes from comparing the 2007 full-time median annual earnings of women with men, the latest year available from the Census Bureau. The 2007 Department of Labor data show that women’s full-time median weekly earnings are 80 percent of men’s.
Just comparing men and women who work 40 hours weekly, without accounting for differences in jobs, training, or time in the labor force, yields a ratio of 87.2 percent, with a smaller pay gap.
These wage ratios are calculated from government data and do not take into account differences in education, job title and responsibility, regional labor markets, work experience, occupation, and time in the workforce. When economic studies include these major determinants of income, rather than simple averages of all men and women’s salaries, the pay gap shrinks even more.