McGowan: The Gap in the Equal Pay ‘Gap’

March 24, 2023

By Richard McGowan, Ph.D.

Governments and media often leave gaps in their reporting and investigation, especially where disparities exist. They appear to choose which groups are more important than others, a partial reason that the word “equity” has replaced the word ‘equality.” Equality relies on rights of individuals whereas equity stresses disparate outcomes, collectively, regarding groups. In choosing groups, governments and media exhibit sloppy thinking and investigation.

I was reminded of that sloppiness with the recent “Equal Pay Day” coverage by both government and media. One newspaper, a Gannett product, had a story whose headline was “In female-dominated teaching, men paid more.” The article claimed that “women would need a 7 percent bonus” for men’s and women’s salaries to be equal.

However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the “gap” between male and female elementary and middle school teachers is 5.4 percent. And, as the article stated, “Male teachers ages 21 to 30 are 12 percentage points more likely than their female counterparts to participate in extra duties.” Those extra duties provide extra compensation. Does that surprise anyone?

In fact, if wages are considered collectively by groups, the BLS data show that 56 percent of male employees are working full-time, whereas the corresponding number for women is 44 percent. It goes without saying — though my academic nature has me state the obvious — that more work hours produces more compensation. The longer hours that men work appears in almost every occupation that the BLS lists, not just in education. In “production, transportation, and material moving occupations,” BLS figures show that men work 43 hours per week to women’s 40.5 hours. In “management, professional and financial operations occupations,” men work 44.7 per week to women’s to women’s 43.5 hours. Few, very few, occupations show women working more hours than men. More hours bring more pay, need I say it again.

The BLS noted that, overall, on an average weekday, men use 5.22 hours for work and work-related activities to women’s 3.69 hours, a gap of 17 percent — the same gap as the so-called “equal pay gap.” On a weekend day, men average 1.60 hours for work and work-related activities to women’s .9 hour, a 28 percent gap. Combining full-time and part-time workers, the BLS notes that men worked an average of 40.5 hours per week to women’s 36.6 hours. I suppose, by now, I am beating a dead horse, to use a dead metaphor, but men work longer hours than women. The more hours men work compared to women net men more compensation.

I will set aside the kinds of work men and women do and the compensation for those jobs except to point out that the BLS data show that in 2021, work-related deaths took 4,741 men and 448 women. Men constituted 91 percent of work-related fatalities. The data are more balanced for Indiana, with 134 deaths of men, or 85 percent, and 23 deaths of women. Compensation should be greater for jobs that involve more hazard.

The preceding data could have been included in articles on the “Equal Pay Gap” between men and women but the narrative is that the gap between men and women is unfounded or a product of bias. It appears that a gap exists between media narratives and reality. That gap appears in governments at the national and state levels.

The United States Census Bureau in a press release entitled “Equal Pay Day; March 14, 2023,” said that “This date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.” The Bureau included no research data, but went on to say that “Because women earn less, on average, than men, they must work longer for the same amount of pay. The wage gap is even greater for most women of color.” The Bureau could have and should have said, “Because women work less on average than men, a pay gap exists.” I suppose it is asking too much for the Census Bureau to investigate the matter more fully; a gap exists where research should be.

Th government of Indiana behaved the same as the Bureau, perhaps assuming a pay gap is unfounded or somehow biased. Indiana dedicated a website, “Pay Equity,” to treat the alleged unfairness of a gap between men and women regarding pay for work. However, historically and traditionally, those who work more hours, women or men, receive greater compensation. Close the work-hours gap and “Equal Pay Day” will be a thing of the past.

Richard McGowan, Ph.D., an adjunct scholar of the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, has taught philosophy and ethics cores for more than 40 years, most recently at Butler University. 


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