When Jill Abramson was fired from her post as executive editor of the New York Times last Wednesday, the world took notice. The New Yorker reported on tensions between Abramson and the paper’s owner, which may have been heightened in part by an argument over her pay relative to that of her male predecessor.
Whether Abramson’s pay did or didn’t have anything to do with her dismissal from the Times, one thing is certain: there is a gender wage gap. Among full-time workers, women earn 77% of what men earn. Even after accounting for the fact that women often work in different occupations and industries than men, as well as differences in work experience, union status, education and race, 41% of that gap is still unexplained. When social scientists control for every employment factor that could possibly explain the disparity, women still earn 91% of what men earn for doing the same job.
Female-dominated occupations tend to pay less, often much less, than male-dominated occupations. Women made great progress in the 1970s and 1980s in moving into careers traditionally dominated by men, but since the mid-1990s that progress has largely stalled. Today women still account for the vast majority of waitresses, retail workers, administrative assistants and nurses, but very few engineers, scientists, managers and technicians. Women also tend to work in service jobs and not-for-profit and public-sector organizations, which aren’t highly valued in a market economy. Moreover, though women lost fewer jobs than men did in therecession, they gained fewer during the recovery. And many of the gains were in sectors facing serious budget cuts, like education and social services.
What’s more, education has not effectively reduced the gender wage gap, even though women are now substantially more educated than men. Women surpassed men in college enrollment in the mid-1990s, and the gap has been growing ever since. Today 45% of young women are enrolled in college, compared with 38% of young men; 36% of young women have a bachelor’s or a graduate degree, compared with 28% of young men. Yet women with graduate degrees earn the same as men with bachelor’s degrees, and women with bachelor’s degrees earn the same as men with associate’s degrees.
What’s behind these differences? Part of the problem lies in what women study, which plays a large role in where they work later on. Women aren’t likely to choose high-paying majors like engineering; instead, they often gravitate to low-paying majors like education, psychology and social work. Women represent 97% of early-childhood-education majors but only 6% of mechanical-engineering majors. Continue reading “More on the wage gap”