Why Men Earn More

Article excerpt

Why Men Earn More by Warren Farrell AMACOM * 2005 * 233 pages * $23.00

Warren Farrell's Why Men Earn More is a businessman's explanation for an economic phenomenon that gets many people up in arms. The book won't be popular among the purveyors of the notion that the so-called gender earnings gap is due to a defect in the economy because Farrell gives no credence to that idea, so popular among feminist scholars. Farrell provides the reader a dispassionate-and often amusing-look at the differences between men and women in the market and shows that there are perfectly rational explanations for the fact that men who are fulltime labor-force participants on the average have higher earnings than women. In sum, the book is a crushing refutation to the contention that capitalism is inherently unfair to women and that government must promote "gender justice."

This is not unexplored terrain, of course. There have been academic studies on the differences between men and women in the labor market for decades. What Farrell does so well is to package that information, mixed generously with his own observations and experiences, to create a highly readable, nontechnical analysis that should persuade all but the most die-hard exploitation theorist that the attacks on capitalism are unwarranted.

Farrell's big point is that men tend to make decisions about employment-including such key factors as hours per week, risk, and the possibility of mandatory relocation-that lead to higher pay, but entail offsetting difficulties. Women, conversely, tend to make choices that lead to lower compensation, but with offsetting advantages. Accordingly, there are ways for individual women to increase their earnings, but they require individual action, not government intervention.

Speaking of government intervention, Farrell easily disposes of the feminists' pet solution to the earnings gap, namely "comparable worth" legislation. Here is his discussion: "The problem with comparable worth is that it creates higher pay for higher fulfillment positions that everyone wants and lower pay for lower fulfillment positions that are hard to fill unless we pay more. Thus, it leaves us with few people to build highways, bridges, or homes; pick up garbage, clean sewers, mine coal; or do most any job that employs almost all men. Why? Test this out yourself. Imagine that for a month you have neither had your garbage picked up nor an opportunity to read about new anthropological discoveries. Which would you pay more money to remedy? …