Economic Woman

Econometrics, gender, equity and more.

Speaking of the wage gap…

with one comment

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has released a fact sheet on gender earnings ratios in the United States. Their takeaway is that the wage gap has stagnated—women haven’t made any relative progress during the recession.

As I’ve said before, I don’t much like straight earnings ratios, and I wish they weren’t thrown around quite so often and with so little context. (By this I don’t mean to criticize the IWPR, which always does a pretty good job explaining its work.) I think most readers immediately interpret that 77 cents on the dollar gap as the gap between similarly qualified workers in the same jobs. But of course that isn’t what it is, and by lumping occupational segregation and family structure in with more straightforward kinds of discrimination, we lose a lot of valuable information.

There is some potentially interesting stuff here about the “mancession“, though. Recessions tend to temporarily reduce gender inequality because, the theory goes, men are employed in more volatile industries, like construction. This has been widely reported over the last year or so, as gender employment gaps and ratios in Canada and the US have soared. (Unfortunately, a lot of media reports have made it sound like this is a new thing, rather than something that has surfaced during every recession in recent memory.)

There’s more to it than that, though. Someone (I can’t for the life of me remember who) predicted that this recession would hit women harder than usual, because the industries affected first—banking and real estate—employ a lot of women. Looking beyond the unemployment rate, the IWPR finds something that might fit in with this original view:

The earnings gap tends to become smaller during recessions. That pattern does not hold in this recession because the men who were able to hold onto full-time year-round jobs had, on average, higher-wage jobs than similarly situated women.


Written by Allison

18 September 2010 at 1:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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One Response

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  1. How big is the “wage gap” between men and women?…

    Depends on the field, to be honest. Gaps vary a lot depending on the profession. There is also the issue of the compensation of the field in general – so-called “pink collar” (women dominated fields) tend to have much lower rates of compensation as c…


    15 February 2011 at 9:46 pm

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