Homer and Marge: A Tale of the Gender Pay Gap in Springfield

homer and marge
JD Hancock/Flickr

It’s hard to find an animated show (or any show) as iconic as The Simpsons. The show’s in its 29th season, and has aired over 600 episodes, but longevity alone can’t account for its appeal. Most likely, we love it because it seems familiar — blue beehives and bright-yellow underbites notwithstanding.

As Zachary Crockett and the number-crunchers over at Vox recently reminded us, Homer and the Simpsons land solidly in the middle class. They’re as typical as they can be — right down to the gender pay gap that Homer and Marge encounter in the workforce.

What’s that? You didn’t remember that Marge has held over 20 jobs outside the home? She sure has. Marge has had many jobs, most of which lasted only a mere episode (imagine that). Some of her more notable occupations include:

Police Officer

When Marge wants to help clean up Springfield, this time as a policewoman, she gets laughed at by the incompetent male police squad. Even though she makes it through training with flying colors, she still spends the rest of the episode proving her qualifications to a suspect town, and her husband.

PayScale’s salary data show a median annual salary of around $50,000 for police officers. Just 9 percent of people in that occupation are female.


Trade Show Model

While trade show work isn’t steady, it can at least offer flexibility. Especially appealing to a stay-at-home mom like Marge, trade show modeling would allow weekend work when Homer could be home to ostensibly look after the kids.

Of course, the salary isn’t much, as models earn median pay of about $20/hour according to our salary data. Modeling isn’t that steady, as mentioned, and it also isn’t that lucrative for the average Joe or Jane out there. Without much hope for work after a “certain age,” it doesn’t offer room for advancement, either.

Real Estate Agent for Red Blazer Realty

Marge gets her own red blazer! She studies and becomes a real estate agent, and begins setting up her friends and neighbors in Springfield with new homes (which may or may not fit their personal tastes).

Real estate is a great job for Marge, as she’s able to work with her network in town and show interesting properties — that is, until the edict of “make the sale or get out” comes down from the head office.

Being a real estate agent is a demanding job, but one that often employs both men and women, according to our salary data. It’s just about split down the middle. With a median annual salary of $47,423, it’s a great way to earn a living without necessarily working a standard 9-to-5 schedule. Commission-based salaries could net even more, depending on the market.

Of course, Marge is too nice to continue her journey as an agent, and can’t handle bending the truth about what’s “cozy” about a tiny kitchen or how good a “fixer-upper” can be to someone who wants a move-in ready house. Or, you know, one that hasn’t had a murder in it.


Power plant employee

Literally, the title of this episode is Marge Gets a Job. To pay for costly home foundation repairs, the Simpsons need a second income. As a result of Lisa padding her mom’s resume, Marge gets hired to work at the plant. While we don’t know her exact job title, a nuclear power plant operator earns a median annual salary of $73,316, according to PayScale’s salary data.

Marge’s employment experience is marred by something that will be familiar to far too many working women: sexual harassment, in this case from the plant owner, Mr. Burns. While employed at the plant, she works to improve dismal employee morale, which only she seems to be aware of, but is fired by Mr. Burns when he finds out she’s married. She threatens a lawsuit over the firing, but ultimately Burns’ team of lawyers scares off the incompetent Lionel Hutz, Esq.

The episode ends with a private concert for Homer and Marge by her favorite singer, Tom Jones, and a slightly less creepy Mr. Burns in the wings. While this plot line makes no sense at all when you actually see it on paper, it ends much as many of Marge’s jobs end — with her getting treated poorly by her employer, and returning home.

Homer’s Hundred Jobs

While Marge has had one main job: that of homemaker (1980 – present), Homer has had over 100 jobs in the Simpson’s 29 seasons on air. He’s primarily served as the family breadwinner as a safety inspector at the local nuclear power plant — a job which Vox notes appears to pay about $37,416 a year, adjusted for inflation:

Screenshot via Vox

Some of his other jobs, however, have paid the big bucks. He’s been a CEO, for example, as well as an executive VP, a film producer and a union leader — all of which typically pay six-figure salaries or close to it. (Of course, he’s also been a drive-thru employee, a mini-golf assistant and a carny — all of which are less lucrative than his current gig.)

If you’re shocked that the hapless Homer tends to make more and have better professional opportunities than super-competent Marge, don’t be. PayScale’s data show that men are 85 percent more likely to become VPs or C-suite execs by mid-career. Of course, those men almost certainly have more to offer employers than our favorite cartoon dad. But it’s worth noting that the professional saga of Homer and Marge has roots in reality.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you see evidence of the gender pay gap in your favorite TV shows? Talk to us in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.