Gender Discrimination: Does It Cost Women 23 Centson the Dollar or "Only" 9?

A blog about business and economics.
June 5 2012 3:34 PM

Does Gender Discrimination Cost Women 23 Cents On The Dollar Or "Only" 9? It's Both!

Two heads of government, one first lady, and a Professor at Humbolt University in Berlin.

Wikimedia Commons

You've probably heard the widely quoted figure that women earn only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Suzy Khim drops some statistical controls on that analysis and comes away quoting researchers who find that "Women are more likely to work in lower-paying occupations and leave the workforce when they have children, for example" and that when you control for those factors the pay gap drops to "only" 91 cents or so.

And yet I don't think that simply saying we have 9 cents of discrimination and then 14 cents of life choices is very satisfying.


After all, assume you have a two-earner household and now due to childbirth one of the workers is going to shift away from market labor and toward household production. All else being equal, it would make sense for the shift to be done by the person who has the lower wages. So if a discrimination-driven wage differential exists, then it can produce a "choices"-driven differential. And this goes on down the line for a whole range of life choices. People make lots of money-vs.-something tradeoffs in life, and if women are going to be discriminated against in efforts to earn money then you'll see men and women weighting life choices differently.

And all that's before you consider the really deep questions. Existing workplace norms were set up with the understanding that there's a woman behind every successful man. Then we changed the rules to say that women are allowed to try to compete with men for professional success. But we didn't equip women with the convenient fulltime homemaker partners who can help them succeed. Even at the highest levels, someone like Angela Merkel's husband has a full-time career as a research scientist while Michelle Obama has a full-time job as First Lady of the United States. It's not "discrimination" that denies Obama a salary, but it would be naive in the extreme to just note that she left the labor force voluntarily and chalk it up to life choices.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

Republicans Want the Government to Listen to the American Public on Ebola. That’s a Horrible Idea.

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Tom Hanks Has a Short Story in the New Yorker. It’s Not Good.

Brow Beat

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.