The Wage Gap: Binders Full of Data

One of the hottest topics to come out of last night’s second presidential debate is equal opportunities for men and women in the workplace, especially the gap in pay between male and female workers. We at PayScale are always glad to hear people discussing the wages, so we consulted our binders… ah-hem, servers full of data and came up with the following perspective.

Gen Y voter, Katherine Fenton, posed the following question to the candidates: "In what new ways do you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?" President Obama talked about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and ensuring his daughters could work in a world with no gender discrimination, while Mitt Romney advocated for flexible schedules for female workers.

What's True About the Gender Pay Gap

When PayScale staffers arrived at work this morning, many of us were buzzing not about the candidates' answers, but about the misleading statistic about the gender pay gap in the question. We turned to our lead economist, Katie Bardaro, to see what she had to say. 

"When you look at men and women as a whole, yes, men typically earn about 30 percent more than women. But, when you compare workers in the same jobs, with the same skill sets, experience and other qualifications, the gap often closes to within five percent,” says Bardaro.

What accounts for this difference in pay, typically? According to our data, job choice and family responsibilities heavily impact pay differences between men and women. Women tend to choose lower-paying jobs that are unlikely to pay as much as the jobs men typically choose.

Also, we noticed that women's pay growth stops out-pacing men's around age 30 which, for college educated women, is the age at which they typically start a family. See our "Do Men Really Make More Than Women?" infographic below for the details.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you agree with our findings? What experiences have you had in the workplace to confirm or deny our findings? Join in the discussion on Twitter, using the hashtag #election2012.

Do Men Really Earn More Than Women?

More from PayScale

Walmart Employment Practices: Gender Discrimination Questions

Election Stats: Jobs Skills Compared -- Obama Voters vs. Romney Voters [infographic]

The Gender Pay Gap and Olympic Weightlifter Holley Mangold

 

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