America’s supposed gender wage gap is a myth: women do not make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for doing identical work.
But that’s not to say men and women earn the same amount: they don’t. The average man makes more than the average woman.
How do we reconcile this difference, and is it a problem?
Why Do Men Make More Than Women?
There are many reasons men end up making more than women, but often it boils down to choice—men and women generally have different passions and strengths, which influence what type of careers they usually choose.
For example, men have better visual-spatial skills whereas women have better verbal memories.
Men tend to prefer working alone, whereas women tend to prefer working in teams.
The list goes on and on, but the point is that these seemingly innocuous differences have big impacts on the economy at large.
In fact, they’re enough to trick many into thinking the system is rigged against women.
Let’s look at a particular profession, physicians, and break down the numbers.
The alleged wage gap between male and female doctors is 26%. This gives the impression that female doctors earn 74 cents for every dollar a male doctor earns.
Taken at face value it seems that male doctors just get more money than female doctors—but they don’t. Why?
They don’t do the same work.
Females generally choose to study medical specialties that pay less—no one’s forcing them to, that’s just what they pick.
For example, female doctors are over-represented in pediatrics and family medicine, whereas male doctors dominate emergency medicine and surgery.
It just so happens, the more specialized types of medicine that men choose earn more, on average, than the types of medicine women often practice.
The below chart shows the breakdown of different medical specialties according to sex:
Cardiologists make more than pediatricians. Surgeons make more than pathologists.
That’s just the way it is—it has nothing to do with the doctor’s sex, and everything to do with their level of knowledge, skill, or specialization.
No one should force women to be cardiologists in the same way no one should force men to be pediatricians. This is a fine example of choosing your careers based on both passions and strengths.
Women tend to be more compassionate and better with children, where men tend to like working with their hands more.
Even as infants, females tend to prefer looking at faces while males prefer to look at mechanical stimuli (eg mobiles).
Lawyers are another good example.
Women often end up specializing in people-focused areas of law like family law, meanwhile, men gravitate to corporate law, and other lucrative specialties.
Again, this has nothing to do with some sort of patriarchal discrimination, and everything to do with personal choice.
To further drive this point home, let’s look at the proportion of men and women in the top 10 highest and lowest earning majors in college.
- Counseling Psychology: 74% female
2. Early Childhood Education: 97% female
3. Theology and Religious Vocations: 34% female
4. Human Services and Community Organization: 81% female
5. Social Work: 88% female
6. Drama and Theater Arts: 60% female
7. Studio Arts: 66% female
8. Communication Disorders Sciences and Services: 94% female
9. Visual and Performing Arts: 77% female
10. Health and Medical Preparatory Programs: 55% female
- Petroleum Engineering: 87% male
2. Pharmacy Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration: 48% male
3. Mathematics and Computer Science: 67% male
4. Aerospace Engineering: 88% male
5. Chemical Engineering: 72% male
6. Electrical Engineering: 89% male
7. Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering: 97% male
8. Mechanical Engineering: 90% male
9. Metallurgical Engineering: 83% male
10. Mining and Mineral Engineering: 90% male
Do you see how males make up a large majority of the most lucrative college majors while women make up a large majority of the least?
This is just another example of how choices affect overall pay—no one is forcing men to study mining and mineral engineering, nor forcing women into performing arts.
That’s just what they pick.
You also can’t even complain that men have more opportunities in higher education, since women outnumber men in grad school 141 to 100.
That’s why America’s gender wage gap doesn’t ‘exist’ in the conventional sense. It’s not that it’s not there, it is.
It’s just not a problem—or shouldn’t be, if you believe in personal freedom and choice.
Of course, there are other issues that I didn’t have time to go through here: read more about America’s gender pay gap here.