Studies: Gender Pay Gap Not As Wide As You Think

One study found that it's just 2.7 percent.

Christos Georghiou/Shutterstock

Christos Georghiou/Shutterstock

Although the general consensus is that the gender pay gap is around 77 cents to 83 cents on the dollar, a new study of 1.4 million Americans finds that it’s actually much smaller.

When examining men and women holding the same jobs, a new PayScale study found that men make just 2.7 percent more than women. The study controlled for factors that affect salary — including experience, location, hours worked and education.

That’s much less than the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported when it studied male and female full-time workers in all jobs — finding that women make 83 cents on the dollar compared to men.

Another study from the American Association of University Women also presents a controlled result — and less of a salary gap. That study examined female college graduates and found that they earn 7 percent less than males one year after graduation. The study controlled for college major, job, age, geographical region and hours worked.

It’s important to note that there shouldn’t be any gender pay gap whatsoever, but any debate on the topic should start with an apples-to-apples comparison — and many studies just aren’t providing that.

Here’s more on the PayScale study: It found that married women with children face the largest gender pay gap — earning an average of 4.2 percent less than married men with children working a similar job. The gap also widens as job title rises up the corporate ladder — with female executives being paid a whopping 32.8 percent less than their male counterparts.

So why do women and men take different jobs in the first place? A 2015 study by Lean In and McKinsey& Co., found that only 60 percent of women aspire to be a top executive, compared to 72 percent of men. “They are more likely to cite ‘stress/pressure’ as a top issue,” the study says.

The same study also found that when females reach the vice president level, they’re more likely to hold supporting roles rather than revenue-generating roles that typically lead to senior leadership.

The PayScale research also concludes that women dominate service-oriented, low-paying jobs, while men take the majority of higher-paying job types. In Pennsylvania, the most common jobs for females are secretaries and administrative assistants (average pay $34,200), and the most common job for males is construction manager (average pay $68,100).

Another explanation of the gender pay gap is career interruption. This year, a study by the Pew Research Center finds that women were more likely to reduce their work hours or take time off to care for a child or a family member, which can have a serious impact on long-term earnings.

So how do we deal with the pay gap? During a November talk at the Pennsylvania Conference for Women, feminist and author Gloria Steinem said that women should be paid through a mandated tax credit for the work they do in the home. Meanwhile on the campaign trail, Hilary Clinton proposed a tax credit of up to $6,000 for caregivers — men and women — who take care of aging or disabled family members.

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