A New York Times front page headline today tells us that “For Young Earners in Big City, Gap Shifts in Women’s Favor.” The big surprise? New York City women between 21 and 30 working full-time made 117% of men’s wages. Everyone is wondering why. Here’s why, for starters…
When I did the research for Why Men Earn More (AMACOM) in 2005, I discovered that nationwide never-married women who had never had children earned 117% of the wages of never-married men who had never had children. New York City women in their twenties are less likely to have married or had children than women in their twenties who live in suburban and rural areas. The overall pay gap with men earning more is not about discrimination; it is mostly about the division of labor once children arrive.
The usual men-earn-more pay gap is also about trade-offs. The road to high pay is a toll road. On average, men are more willing to pay the tolls of the more hazardous jobs (accounting for 94% of workplace deaths), to work on commission, relocate overseas, travel overnight and travel weekends (approximately 90% of the most frequent flyers are men), work late nights and night shifts, work weekends, intensify their work commitment during child-raising years, work in engineering, computer sciences, technology and the hard sciences where the supply doesn’t match the demand, and do all of the twenty-five most important trade-offs that on average lead to men earning more.
The good news is that any woman can learn to out-earn men should she be willing to make more of the twenty-five trade-offs than the average man makes.