Ceterius Paribus, Equal Pay Day Falls in January
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s (BLS) most recent annual report, “Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2008,” women who worked full-time in 2008 had median earnings of $638 per week, or about 80 percent of the $798 median weekly earnings for men working full-time.
But for single workers who have never been married, the BLS reports that women made 94.2 percent as much money as their male counterparts in 2008. Equal Pay Day would fall on January 22 for these single females, almost three months earlier than the official, unadjusted Equal Pay Day of April 20 for all women. For a separate BLS category of single workers, those with “no children under 18 years old and whose marital status includes never married, divorced, separated and widowed,” women earned 95.6 percent as much as their male counterparts in 2008. Equal Pay Day for that group of single female workers would fall even earlier, on January 19, only a few weeks into the year.
While the Equal Pay Day advocates emphasize gender discrimination as the most important source of wage differentials, the reality is that most of the wage gap can be explained by life choices that involve family considerations, work hours, and career choices. The BLS data highlighted above show that simply controlling for marriage and children explains more than 70 percent of the unadjusted wage gap. Other factors could easily account for the rest.
Some other issues to consider on Equal Pay Day:
1. On average, men work 5.6 more hours per week than women—the equivalent of seven additional weeks of full-time work per year (see chart above). That would put “Equal Work Day” at the end of February, symbolizing how far the average women would have to work into 2010 to equal the same number of hours that the average man worked in 2009.
2. The unemployment rate for men has been greater than the jobless rate for women for the last 40 months, and job losses during the depth of the last recession were four times greater for men.
3. There were 1,277 male occupational fatalities in 2008 for every 100 female work-related deaths, a ratio of almost 13:1.
An important question then for women on Equal Pay Day: Would perfect labor market equality really be worth it if it meant working 280 more hours per year, having a much greater chance of being unemployed during recessions, and being significantly more exposed to work-related injury and death?
Cross-posted today on the Enterprise blog.