Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Admitting the Gender Pay-Gap Is Narrowing

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Admitting the Gender Pay-Gap Is Narrowing

Article excerpt

Proponents of more government regulation in the workplace are launching a new effort under such euphemistic labels as Paycheck Fairness, Fair Pay, and Equal Pay. Congress and state legislatures are being urged to adopt the concept of "comparable worth" and use it in setting pay scales.

The case for comparable worth is based on a striking but misleading statistical comparison: On average, women, are paid less than men. Women's median annual earnings were 74 percent of men's in 1997. It's tempting to conclude this is due almost entirely to discrimination. Numerous factors come into play in the determination of wages and salaries - and they aren't always the same for men and women. For example, on average, women have less work experience because they're more likely to leave their jobs in connection with childbirth and child rearing. And women have tended to favor occupations that minimize overtime and allow flexible work hours (often related to caring for children). Until recently, women tended to have less education than men.

However, in recent years public policy and private actions have reduced if not removed workplace barriers to women. We'd thus expect to find the pay differential between men and women becoming narrower in younger groups. This is what every study shows. In the youngest working groups, the pay gap has almost disappeared, especially for men and women of comparable education and experience. So women aged 16 to 29 typically earn 92 percent of men's earnings. Women aged 27 to 33 who have no children now earn on average, 98 percent of the wages of childless men of the same age. When we look at specific work, women have made substantial progress, especially in fields requiring higher education. More women now receive college degrees than men. In 1970, 39 percent of psychologists were women; by 1998, it was 62 percent. …

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