Hey there, hope your week is going well. I’m delivering this week’s fact check a bit early. Yesterday, I got an email from Daniel in Lancaster, California, that said: “How would someone go about checking wage gaps? How can you check for gaps across genders and across racial/ethnic groups?”
Great question, Daniel, and a timely one for Equal Pay Day which is on 4 April this year. That date is symbolic – it shows roughly how many days of 2017 women need to work to earn as much as men did in 2016. Tuesdays are symbolic too, they represent “how far into the next work week women must work to earn what men earned the previous week”, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity.
But there are people who doubt that it’s as simple as that. Like the author of this Time article who cites the wage gap among “feminist myths that will not die”. Or contributors to mens’ rights forums. Let’s check the math.
Step 1: Find a reputable source. The Census Bureau is a good place to start. I search for “census bureau wage gap” and click on the first link in the results. I’m not interested in “news” though, so I click on the “publications” part of their site and choose the most recent report.
The table of contents says that figure 2 contains the “Female-to-Male Earnings Ratio”. That sounds about right. It says that in 2015, women earned 80% of what men did. More specifically, the table below it shows that men on average earned $51,212 that year while women earned $40,742. If I want to check that “80 cents on the dollar” claim that is so frequently cited, I need to divide 100 by $51,212 and then multiply by $40,742 to arrive at the percentage. The answer is 79.5555729126. I don’t blame activists for rounding – “79.6 cents on the dollar” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it now does it?
Read more at The Guardian.