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News Flash: Sex Discrimination is Finished

September 14th, 2010

Economists have known for a long time that discrimination per se accounts for relatively minor part of the wage differences between men and women. By far the largest factor is the impact of children on people’ work/life decisions. Children affect men and women differently. This was already very apparent in data when I started in economics back in the 1970’s.

Now, here is a story from USA Today that demonstrates that the process of wiping out labor market discrimination is complete:

Single, childless women in their twenties are finding success in the city: They’re out-earning their male counterparts in the USA’s biggest metropolitan areas.
Women ages 22 to 30 with no husband and no kids earn a median $27,000 a year, 8% more than comparable men in the top 366 metropolitan areas, according to 2008 U.S. Census Bureau data crunched by the New York research firm Reach Advisors and released Wednesday. The women out-earn men in 39 of the 50 biggest cities and match them in another eight. The disparity is greatest in Atlanta, where young, childless single women earn 21% more than male counterparts.

Take away the impact of children, and voila! No more wage difference. In fact, women earn more than men.

The trouble is that earning money is not the only thing in life that people care about. Women in particular, would like to have children and husbands. We have put all our public policy attention, legal and social, on equalizing wages, and have given little attention to building long-lasting relationships. So now, women earn as much as men. But more and more women are raising children alone, and are spending larger and larger portions of their lives alone.

this is progress?
My ITAF lectures deal with this issue. They are available on the Ruth Institute podcast page. This one is especially relevant.

I did my Issues Etc radio show on this aticle today.

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  1. September 14th, 2010 at 20:55 | #1

    Perhaps I’ve gone off the reservation, but I now see the push for equal wages as a push to ban all non-feminist institutions.

    Working husbands should be paid more than singletons, men or women, and women should be very careful to consider whether their careerism is depriving a job from a family’s breadwinner. (For their part, men need to think about being breadwinners instead of relying upon a working wife to take up their slack.)

    I don’t support mandating this classic pro-family custom of paying fathers more, but I do think banning such customs is bad for the country. Think how different a newspaper or university would be if it didn’t have to worry about whether a feminist would sue it?

  2. Heidi
    September 16th, 2010 at 13:43 | #2

    “women should be very careful to consider whether their careerism is depriving a job from a family‚Äôs breadwinner.”

    @ Kevin–Um…I AM my family’s breadwinner!!!! As are millions of other women. People should be paid according to their worth, NOT according to their sex. Why should working husbands be paid more than working wives or single mothers? That’s crap. In a perfect world, employers would treat all employees fairly, regardless of sex, gender, or family status. As it stands now, many women have to choose between having a career or having children, which is not fair and not something that men generally have to face. Why is that? I’m sorry, but my “careerism” is not responsible for depriving a family of its breadwinner. And women have just as much right to compete in the workforce as men do.

    “But more and more women are raising children alone, and are spending larger and larger portions of their lives alone.” So are you suggesting that decisions by women to work outside of the home cause divorce and single parenthood? How neanderthal of you. And frankly, if the cost of freedom to define one’s own life trajectory is being single, you can keep those sexist men! Are you really saying that women need to return to the home if they want intact families? Sounds to me like it’s time that men evolve, because most women don’t want to go backwards to a time of few choices and economic dependency on men. Thanks, but no thanks.

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