OK, how about the gender gap, within occupations, for people working 50+ hours?

I haven’t had time to write something substantial on this, but I took the time to make this figure so I may as well post it.

Hanna Rosin wrote a blog post in Slate called “The Gender Gap Lie,” boldly proclaiming, “I feel the need to set the record straight,” before summarizing a June 2012 PolitiFact piece on the Obama 2012 ad which said: “President Obama knows that Women being paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men isn’t just unfair, it hurts families.”

It turns out, not surprisingly, there are many pieces debunking the misleading use of the gender wage gap statistic, like this one by Kay Hymowitz and this one by Ruth David Konigsberg, with the absurdly offensive sub-head: “Women don’t make 77 cents to a man’s dollar. They make more like 93 cents, as long as they don’t major in art history.” Newsflash: most employed women didn’t major in anything because they didn’t go to college (67% don’t have college degrees!), which also speaks to Rosin’s favorite “apples-to-apples comparison,” the study about University of Chicago MBAs.

Just to be clear: the 77 cents on the dollar statistic (and its variations) is based on all people working full time. It is not a measure of pay discrimination “for the same work.” It is a measure of gender inequality. The correct, non-lie way to describe this fact is modeled by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research: “in 2011, female full-time workers made only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.” Calling that lie is a lie. Not all inequality is discrimination, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem.

Occupations are one thing, that is, why “women” insist on majoring in art history before choosing careers as hotel maids instead of CEOs. Another is hours at work, always an issue in wage-gap debunkery. Men work more hours, on average, so they should get paid more, says the anti-lie crowd.

Fair enough, by the rules of our game. To help inform on that issue, I made this figure. It shows the occupations with the most people usually working 50 hours per week or more among those who worked 50 weeks or more in the previous year.

50-plus-hours-occs-earnsSource: My calculations from the 2011 American Community Survey, extracted from IPUMS.

The pink and blue bars show the median annual earnings of workers who put in an average of 50+ hours per week last year, and worked 50 weeks or more. The dots show women’s median as percentage of men’s. You can see that in two occupations — non-retail sales supervisors and human resource workers — women actually earn more than men on average. In some the gender gap is quite large. For example, among doctors working 50+ hours per week, women only earn 54% of men’s median earnings (so the gap doesn’t just result from surgeons working longer hours than pediatricians, I guess). Also, note that the 50-hour crowd are not all in high-status professional jobs where high earnings drive career choices — those women home health aides are making $11 per hour.

Overall, in these 25 occupations, the earnings gap for people working 50+ hours 50+ weeks is 83%. So, the Twitter version: Within occupations, among those working extra-long hours, women earn 83% of what men earn.

Even though these aren’t side-by-side wage gaps (e.g., two janitors working the same shift at the same workplace, with the same performance evaluations and work experience), you could justifiably call this “the same work” if you acknowledge there are different career tracks and working conditions contributing to this gap. That is, surgeons and pediatricians have the same degrees even if they have different specialty training and skills; they are doing varieties of the same work. You could also dispute that, or clarify it (likewise, among truck drivers, people operating different equipment have different skills).

21 thoughts on “OK, how about the gender gap, within occupations, for people working 50+ hours?

  1. Does IPUMS data have years as incumbent in current job? I can’t imagine it would make even a large portion of the gaps close, but I am curious. Might “Doctors” also include some administrators, too?


    1. The ACS does not include work experience beyond the previous year. As for doctors and administrators, it is up to the respondents to describe their occupations. If they think they are a hospital administrator more than a doctor, there is a separate category for that.


  2. Hasn’t the argument been that the gap can be closed if you could account for women’s less consistent labor force participation patterns (reducing hours to stay home and/or leaving labor force for a few years)? These “tastes” for work likely result in gender-differentiated selection into occupations and employers may also discriminate based on their own gendered perceptions of stability, but at a minimum, it would be interesting if you could condition these estimates on years of (full-time) experience.


  3. Labor force experience is like occupation, reflecting lots of different interventions by different actors in different relationships at different points in time. So, condition it on more and the gap closes, condition it on less and the gap widens. It depends what processes and outcomes you’re interested in.


  4. Great graphic, and this is well said: “Not all inequality is discrimination, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem.”

    My first thought is that these are occupations in which having children really gets in the way, or the “motherhood penalty.” I don’t know why we ought to call it a motherhood penalty, considering that what matters is personal fulfillment, and many women with the kinds of credentials to enter these occupations also possess disproportionately greater agency and education in order to make a conscious decision to sacrifice pecuniary income for the joy of parenting.

    Nice thoughtful discussion overall.


    1. It’s complicated. Studies have shown when the ability to negotiate is ambiguous, women are less likely to negotiate for higher pay than men, but when the rules state negotiation is expected/okay, women will negotiate as much as men. However, women are less likely to apply for jobs where it is explicitly stated that salary is negotiable, and men are slightly more likely to apply for these jobs. And at least two other studies have shown aggressiveness does not serve women well in the workplace. Women who are more traditionally feminine are more likely to be promoted and get raises.

      This makes sense when taken together. Aggressiveness is not a socially desirable trait in women. As such, women are conditioned not to be aggressive, are less likely to be aggressive, avoid situations where aggression is expected, and will only be aggressive in situations where aggression is explicitly defined as acceptable. Moreover, their reluctance to be aggressive is justified. Aggressive behavior is socially undesirable in women and is less likely to be rewarded than behavior that is more socially acceptable for women (i.e. traditionally feminine behavior.)

      The workplace has traditionally been a place for men, and the culture and structure of the workplace have historically worked to reward traditionally masculine behavior. Women are now in the workplace, and while the rules have not changed (i.e. traditionally masculine behavior is still rewarded), the rules do not work the same way for female workers as they do for male workers. In fact, they often work against women. So a lot of the advice for female workers, just to act more like men, is counterproductive. Masculine tactics work against women instead of for them, and feminine tactics, although not as rewarded as masculine tactics employed by men, will get them further than employing masculine tactics themselves.

      The culture and structure of the workplace will need to change significantly before either women’s feminine tactics can work for women as well as men’s masculine tactics work for men or women’s masculine tactics are viewed as positively as men’s masculine’s tactics.


  5. Aggressiveness is not a socially desirable trait in women. As such, women are conditioned not to be aggressive, are less likely to be aggressive

    What form of aggressiveness? The in-your-face struggles that men understand, or the hissing cat fights and cutting gossip that females learn at a young age (and certainly not from the patriarchy)?


      1. This is going to be quite long, so please bear w/ me. 1. A big problem w/ the analysis of the earnings “of full-time wages for single childless women ages 22-30 vs. their male counterparts” is that you think it’s an odd categorization; that’s your opinion. That’s not a bad sampling at all b/c that takes out other controlling factors that are often said to skew the earning of women as being “77 cents/a dollar” compared to men. Those include (but aren’t limited to) “how many of those women are in traditionally higher paying jobs?” “how long do they stay on the job before dropping out to raise a family?” You don’t answer these questions. By comparing single, childless women to single childless men, we’re taking a look at those who are in similar life backgrounds & situations; in other words, apples to apples.
        2. Your links are maddeningly hard to deal w/ and produce a lot of 404s, but I tracked down one of your own blog posts that you cited (citing yourself?) to prove your point. Checking through your myriad of referenced links took me to these: http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/cpstables/032009/perinc/new03_298.htm, http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/cpstables/032009/perinc/new03_172.htm It’s painfully obvious; although men overall in that category out-earn their female peers, it begins to shift in the women’s favor when it comes to higher levels of education. That’s the crux of what those of us who oppose the gender wage gap myth: why are we calling the fact that women who, when taking on raising kids and being a homemaker, see their earnings go down a problem at all? You complain over several posts about the choosing of this demographic, but in the end prove nothing except that the sampling isn’t sliced the way you like it to get the results you want. You even prove it more or less here in your 2nd graph. https://familyinequality.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/time-check/ I’d hardly call this “felled,” there’s plenty of room for debate. The US Dept of Labor published a study in 2009 commissioned to CONSAD which goes some length to explain the gender-pay gap overall, which I’ve linked to in my first comment.
        You also flat-out admitted, in the .pdf you sent me: “If education is what pulls women upward, it is deindustrialization that pushes men’s fortunes downward, multiplying women’s occupational opportunities while squeezing men into fewer jobs or out of the labor force altogether. The effects of deindustrialization thus favor women over men. As a statement of post-World War II economic trends, this is not controversial.” You then state you don’t think this is still happening, but if he’s going to throw the baby out with the bathwater on the demographic used to show young women outearning their male peers, then there’s not much to say to you.
        3. When you talk about gendered violence and dispute that women are just as if not more aggressive in IPV, you rely on someone of your own ideological milieu, Ally Fogg. Have you read Elam’s takedown of Fogg? http://avoiceformen.com/feminism/ally-foggs-pants-are-on-fire/ You also commit the exact same error that the MRM’s been complaining about: that of only looking at those who are in the upper echelons of power to determine if things are better for men or women: “To consider some other indicators for Auburn, I checked the mayor’s gender (male) and the composition of the city council (100% male), the city government’s department heads (80% male), and the top leadership of Auburn University (the President, Provost, and Executive Vice Provost are all male, and the board of trustees is 86% male).”
        The voting population is 53% female. It’s about time to drop that nonsense of using the gender of elected officials as an indicator of “patriarchy.” Those people are there because a) the populace, including women, voted them in b) there are not enough women who care to run for office. In turn, how many men in Auburn, AL are homeless? How many are in dirty menial jobs like sanitation or sewers? You do the same thing most feminists do repeatedly – focus on the “glass ceiling” and not looking at all the men in the “glass cellar.” http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/a-different/5153949e2b8c2a7dff000149


  6. Can’t remember which ones it was, but it was what happened when I clicked on links in the .pdf file. I found what I was looking for, just had to use Google.
    Uh, are you saying you will get to my long response, or is the gendersociety pingback supposed to answer everything?


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