Some Thoughts on the Gender Pay Gap in the US

I sent the following text as IMs to a male friend who asked me if I celebrate the closing of the gender pay gap- which is supposedly the narrowest in history.  I dug deeper, looked for the bigger story.

the pay gap is lower partly due to the fact that there’s a gender imbalance at the college level (more women)

and typically well-paying jobs that didn’t require a degree (construction) have lost many jobs and their pay is depressed due to the recession

I do care about the pay gap, but when the heads of households are no longer making as much $, it puts more pressure on women to be [breadwinners + wives + mothers + housekeepers] within “traditional” hetero(cis)sexual, 2-parent households.  I can’t speak to the experiences of women in open marriages or lesbian or bisexual women, though.

I just read the Time article (published April 2010), entitled “Equal Pay and the Gender Gap: Men Still Outearn Women

That’s because U.S. women still earned only 77 cents on the male dollar in 2008, according to the latest census statistics. (That number drops to 68% for African-American women and 58% for Latinas.)

So obviously race and class play a role here as well. To a degree, one’s race, depending on location and access, dictates the level of education one receives in public school, etc.  It’s interesting to me that the “default” woman is still the white woman.

The most-educated swath of women, for example, gravitates toward the teaching and nursing fields. Men with comparable education become business executives, scientists, doctors and lawyers — jobs that pay significantly more.

And gender.  The gendered nature of socialization and education can be seen here. Women are typically employed in the service, social welfare and education sectors, which tend to require empathy and nurturing traits- traits associated most closely with the female gender.

But industry doesn’t tell the whole story. Women earned less than men in all 20 industries and 25 occupation groups surveyed by the Census Bureau in 2007 — even in fields in which their numbers are overwhelming. Female secretaries, for instance, earn just 83.4% as much as male ones. And those who pick male-dominated fields earn less than men too: female truck drivers, for instance, earn just 76.5% of the weekly pay of their male counterparts.

Even within industries, women earn less than men.  BUT in about 40% of American households, women are the breadwinners.  I’m not equipped to study this, but I’m sure you’ll see female-headed households more among the working-class.


  1. regarding “default being white women”: is it practical or impractical to have a “default” and if one accepts that it is practical to have a default, is it practical or impractical that this value be representative of the majority or some minority of the surveyed population?

    1. *sigh*

      Where do I start? I acknowledge that I am not equipped to do the practical research on this topic- I should have also said that I am not interested in finding the solutions. My calling is elsewhere. This blog post isn’t simply a litany problems. I see it as a necessary examination of the way class and race affect the gendered pay gap in the US.

      I am currently struggling to be more solutions-oriented, but at the moment, I’m a bit constrained by my own small thinking. I admit that readily. It shows in my recent works. I’m struggling to see beyond these 4 walls.

      Thank you for holding me accountable and challenging me, really.

    2. I don’t think the default necessary. It makes sense to do an average of all groups and provide a breakdown of each individual group.

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