Most of the Gender Pay Gap Disappears After Controlling for Marriage and Having Children
The Department of Labor recently released its annual study Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2009 and opens the report with the following statement:
"In 2009, women who were full-time wage and salary workers had median weekly earnings of $657, or about 80 percent of the $819 median for their male counterparts. In 1979, the first year for which comparable earnings data are available, women earned about 62 percent as much as men. After a gradual rise in the 1980s and 1990s, the women's-to-men's earnings ratio peaked at 81 percent in 2005 and 2006."
MP: Doesn't the BLS' use of the term "male counterparts" (Webster definition: "one remarkably similar to another") imply an "apples to apples" comparison between male and females workers, as if all relevant explanatory factors have been controlled for, i.e. the ceteris paribus condition has been imposed?
In the chart above, BLS data show that marriage and having children affect male and female earnings differently, so that men and women workers can't really be considered "counterparts" in a statistical sense, and any unadjusted comparisons would be comparing apples to oranges. For example, single women earn about 95% of what men earn, but married women earn 75.6% of what married men earn (from Table 1), and married women with children between the ages of 6-17 earn 70.25% of their male "counterparts" (Table 8). Also from Table 8, for the marital status that includes "never married, divorced, separated and widowed," and with "no children under 18 years old," women in that group make 96.3% of their "male counterparts."
According to the BLS report, marriage and motherhood can explain a large portion of the gender pay gap.