Daily Caller Hypes Myth That Gender Pay Gap Is Product Of Personal Choice

The Daily Caller is promoting a flawed report that attributes the gender pay gap to women's preference for less lucrative jobs.  In reality, women earn significantly less than men in the same occupation and the claim that personal choice is responsible for the gender wage gap has been thoroughly debunked.

In a May 31 article, The Daily Caller hyped salary tracking website PayScale's new report that women earn 81 cents on the dollar compared to men simply due to personal choice:

Salary tracking website PayScale released a report Thursday pushing back on the idea of a gender pay gap.

The report found that although women earn an average 81 cents on the dollar to when compared to men, it's because women choose lower paying jobs.

“Unequal pay for equal work? Not really,” wrote Katie Bardaro, lead economist at PayScale.

The site found that the salary difference between men and women with the same types of jobs was negligible. The reason for the wage gap is that females tend to gravitate toward jobs that are societally beneficial, where as [sic] men choose more lucrative careers, according to the report.

Contrary to PayScale's findings, a 2012 American Association of University Women report found that women were paid 82% of what men were paid just one year out of college, and that lifetime gender wage disparities cannot be explained by personal choice:

Critics charge that pay differences between men and women are simply a matter of personal choices. AAUW addressed this argument in our 2012 report, Graduating to a Pay Gap: The Earnings of Women and Men One Year after College Graduation. Our analysis found that just one year after college graduation, women were paid just 82 percent of what their male counterparts were paid.

An earlier report, Behind the Pay Gap (AAUW, 2007), found that 10 years after graduation, the pay gap widened, and women were paid only 69 percent of what men were paid. In part, these pay gaps do reflect men's and women's choices, especially the choice of college major and the type of job pursued after graduation. For example, women are more likely than men to go into teaching, and this contributes to the pay gap because teachers tend to be paid less than other college graduates. This portion of the pay gap is considered to be explained, regardless of whether teachers' wages are considered fair.

Yet not all of the gap can be “explained away.” After accounting for college major, occupation, economic sector, hours worked, months unemployed since graduation, GPA, type of undergraduate institution, institution selectivity, age, geographical region, and marital status, Graduating to a Pay Gap found that a 7 percent difference in the earnings of male and female college graduates one year after graduation was still unexplained.

Similarly, Behind the Pay Gap found a 12 percent unexplained difference in earnings among full-time workers 10 years after college graduation. Other researchers have also found that the gender pay gap is not fully accounted for by women's and men's choices.

The myth that the gender pay gap is the product of women's career choices has also been disproven by various studies, which show that women's median earnings are lower than men's in most occupations, even those dominated by women.  According to an April 2012 fact sheet from the Institute for Women's Policy Research, “Women's median earnings are lower than men's in nearly all occupations, whether they work in occupations predominantly done by women, occupations predominantly done by men, or occupations with a more even mix of men and women.”

Even a 2009 report published by the Bush Labor Department found “the adjusted gender wage gap ... is between 4.8 and 7.1 percent” when controlling for variables including occupation, career interruption, and industry sector.

The gender pay gap is particularly important in light of Pew Research's May 29 study, which found that mothers are the primary or sole breadwinner in 40 percent of all American households with children. In addition to promoting the wellbeing of American families dependent on a mother's income, closing the gender wage gap will grow the economy. According to economist Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, closing the gender pay gap would grow the U.S. economy by at least three to four percentage points.