Depending on whether one looks at global statistics or American statistics, there is a significant difference in men and women’s typical earnings. The focus here will be solely on data collected for the United States. I became extremely interested in this after a conversation I had with someone on campus so I figured I would share what I learned. The numbers tell a story but, where the numbers come from is a much more interesting one.
The gender wage gap in America has tremendously evolved over the past few decades. The economy is no longer a battle between the sexes but a comprehensive desire for equal opportunity. The market ultimately provides the opportunities to find satisfying employment conditions that fulfill individually unique needs and wants. The fact that there still remains a gap is a matter of opinion when taking into consideration different causes and effects of life associated with gender and the workforce. Education is an imperative factor when considering the wage gap. Logically, as the level of education increases, the level of earnings should increase as well. This must also take into account, the several different fields of study; a first-year female teacher’s salary cannot be compared to a senior level male engineer’s salary. The level of education, experience, and field of employment vary across the wide spectrum of careers and education far too drastically for a comparison of the sort to be considered rational. Exploring the gender differences between education/field of expertise, consumer differences, and familial obligations, can paint a comprehensive picture of the wage gap when comparatively examined.
Pursuit of higher education has always been viewed as crucial when discussing financial security but not all degrees provide equal foundations for the future. Women tend to earn more college and graduate degrees than men, but their objectives generally place them in occupations such as education, healthcare, and service industries. A study in 2010 of single, childless urban workers ages 22-30 conducted by the Reach Advisors Research Firm concluded that women actually earned an average of 8% more than their male counterparts since the economy increasingly gears itself towards knowledge-based jobs. The concurrent unemployment rates are consistently higher among men ages 16+ (9.3%) than they are among women ages 16+ (8.3%). Men are typically hit harder by recessions because they tend to work in fields like construction, manufacturing, and trucking, which are disproportionately affected by bad economic conditions. Similar fields of the workforce are comparatively even when accounting for field, education, demand, and levels of expertise.
Gender relations play a systematic role in the division of labor, work, income, wealth, education, productive inputs, publicly provided goods, etc. Men and women differ as consumers, risk-takers, and other aspects of economic behavior. Women, as a gender, tend to gravitate towards jobs with fewer risks, comfortable conditions, regular work hours, greater flexibility, and additional personal fulfillment. While the opposite sex tends to go for positions that involve physical labor, outdoor work, overnight shifts, and dangerous conditions, one of the main reasons for higher pay in comparison. Men, on the other hand, tend to spend an average of 8.75 hours per day at work while women spend an average of 8.01 hours per day. When it comes to describing the two genders as consumers, the two worlds differ immensely. Women play a key role in the economy because, even though they occupy approximately half of the workforce, they also own the roles of caregivers at home. As consumers, women live with a good deal of pressure on a daily basis and have to accept responsibility for the demands of a family if they are single parents or have an unemployed spouse. Men, as consumers, are seeing a rise in the markets because they are shopping more than ever. Gender roles have become muddled and families are doing what it takes to male ends meet.
Changing life patterns interact with women’s ability to fully participate in the labor market. Even though women are entitled more freedoms, choices are still constrained by the need to coordinate child raising with careers, balance spouses’ career aspirations with their own, and the need to fulfill other family roles such as caretakers for aging parents or sick/disabled relatives. The obligations women face as members of society often affect their career choices, causing another rift in the wage gap.
Familial obligations, consumer differences, and educational expertise explain the majority of the wage gap difference. The current gender wage gap has nothing to do with the sexes or discrimination but a shift in roles and responsibilities coupled with higher education standards. The gap can easily be closed once extenuating factors are accounted for and calculated.