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.
Source: 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).