The AAUW, one of the more vociferous opponents of the gender pay gap, found that only “a 7 percent difference in the earnings of male and female college graduates one year after graduation was still unexplained” after “accounting for college major, occupation, economic sector, hours worked, months unemployed since graduation, GPA, type of undergraduate institution, institution selectivity, age, geographical region, and marital status”. They found no more than a 12% gap 10 years on. In other words, the claims regarding the gender pay gap (which claim a 21% gap) are vastly over-stated, and are typically based on insupportable arguments that rely on confounded data ([f]or example, women are more likely than men to go into teaching, and this contributes to the pay gap because teachers tend to be paid less than other college graduates. [citing Hegewisch, 2014]).
This conclusion is restated emphatically by Blau and Kahn (2016) who estimate no more than a maximum of a 15% gap across the entire spectrum of employment after adjustment, with most of the remaining gap at the top of the pay continuum!
This is not to say that the gender gap is acceptable. But what we do need to recognize is that the gender pay gap is nowhere near as bad as alleged (though clearly it is not acceptable), that it is consistently gotten smaller based on current regulations, and that the greatest disparity is in the Board Room, a place far from the immediate concerns of most Americans upset about gender pay issues.
Equal pay for equal work has always been an intriguing idea. Let’s focus on what that really means in a socially and economically just world, and how best to accomplish those ends, and let up just a bit on the rhetoric.