It is no secret. Women typically earn less income than men. “For American women twenty-five and older who hold at least a bachelor’s degree and work full-time, the national median income is about $47,000. Similar men, meanwhile, make more than $66,000, a premium of 40 percent” (Super Freakonomics, p. 21). Moreover, the income disparity seems to increase with age. “As young beginning workers, British Women’s incomes were 91 percent that of British men but, as mother, their incomes were just 67 percent of that of men who were fathers … In the United States, a study of graduates of the University of Michigan Law School found a similar pattern: The gap in pay between women and men was relatively small at the outset of their careers, but 15 years later, women graduates earned only 60 percent as much as men” (Sowell, Economic Facts and Fallacies, p. 75).
Some have thought that the disparity can be primarily attributed to employer discrimination. This does not seem a reasonable explanation. (a) Such discrimination would put an employer at a competitive disadvantage. “If employers pay a woman only three-quarters as much as they would pay a man for doing the same work with the same skill, this means that those employers who hire an all-female workforce can get four workers for what other employers are paying for three … Even if discriminatory employers do not think things through this way, the competition of the marketplace will tend to force the higher-cost producers out of business, whether they understand why or not” (Economic Facts and Fallacies, p. 73-74). (b) Gender alone does not explain the statistics. “In 1991, women without children earned 95 percent of what men earned, while women with children earned just 75 percent of what men earned. Moreover, even those women without children need not be in the same occupations as men. The very possibility of having children makes different occupations have different attractions to women, even before they become mothers” (Sowell, Basic Economics, p. 199). Moreover, “As far back as 1969, academic women who had never married earned more than academic men who had never married, while married academic women without children earned less, and married academic women with children earned still less. For women in general – that is, not just academic women — those single women who had worked continuously since high school were in 1971 earning slightly more than men of the same description. All of this was before affirmative action” (Facts and Fallacies, p. 77). “Among college educated, never-married individuals with no children who worked full-time and were from 40 to 64 years old – that is beyond the child-bearing years – men averaged $40,000 in income, while women averaged $47,000 (Facts and Fallacies, p. 70).
It seems that the gender wage disparity can be explained by several considerations: (1) Educational choices. Women pursue higher education in greater numbers than do men. In the U.S. there are 140 women for every 100 men enrolled in higher education (Facts and Fallacies, p. 56). The 2010 census indicates that 37 percent of employed women have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 35 percent of men (abcnews.com). However, there are significant differences in what degrees are pursued. “As of 2005, for example, women received more than 60 percent of the doctorates in education but less than 20 percent of the doctorates in engineering” (Facts and Fallacies, p. 67). (2) Career choices. (a) Women compose 74 percent of what the U.S. Census Bureau classifies as “clerical and kindred works.” They are less that 5 percent of “transportation equipment operatives” and less than 3 percent construction workers or loggers. While men are 54 percent of the labor force, they are 92 percent of the job-related deaths (Facts and Fallacies, p. 65). (b) Women tend to spend less time at work. “The average female MBA with no children works only 3 percent fewer hours than the average male MBA. But female MBAs with children work 24 percent less” (Super Freakonomics, p. 45). (c) Women tend to choose jobs which are more flexible, and allow them to spend more time with their children. (d) Pregnancy and staying at home with small children has a huge impact on income. “Interruptions of labor force participation … mean that a woman may have fewer years of job experience than a man of the same age … To drop out of some fields and the return in a few years … can mean having fallen significantly behind developments in these occupations” (Facts and Fallacies, p. 66-67).
Women make less due to their role in the home. In many ways it is the woman who helps the man bring in the income that he does. Thomas Sowell writes, “The earnings of that income can also be a joint enterprise, regardless of whose name appears on the paycheck. Time that a bachelor spends shopping, preparing meals, or going out to restaurants, taking his clothes to the laundry or dry cleaners, entertaining guests … is available to many married men to put into advancing their careers instead, because their wives relieved them of such concerns. Given these and other ways in which traditional wives have freed up the time of their husbands, it is hardly surprising that married men have usually earned higher incomes than single men of the same age and education … Another way of looking at this is that the traditional division of family responsibilities has meant that wives have sacrificed their own income-earning potential possibilities and enhanced that of their husbands, with the resultive income being jointly spent” (Facts and Fallacies, p. 72).
There may be many reasons that women do not earn as much as men. However, one of the reasons, perhaps the biggest reason, has to do with the fact that women make certain choices and sacrifices to rear their children, and for the well-being of the family.
Do you realize how much a wife and mother sacrifices of her personal income potential to contribute to the well-being of the family?
“He who finds a wife finds a good thing” (Proverbs 18:22).
“Her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life … She rises while it is yet night, and provides food for her household … She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household is clothed in scarlet … Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the lord. She makes linen garments and sells them … She watches over the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness” (Proverbs 31).