October 30, 2006

Gender and wages

I have a big midterm tomorrow that (I feel) I am woefully under prepared for so blogging will be limited today, but I do have stuff to talk about.First, Ezra Klein has a very misleading post up on his personal blog about gender and wages:

The good news: The gap between male and female salaries is narrowing, with women now making .81 cents for every dollar a man does. The bad news: That's because salaries for males are dropping.
Klein names this post Good News/Bad News, but for me, it is no news at all.One of the reasons for the gender gap in wages is that women didn't start entering the labor force at the same level as men until the 70s. As a result, there has, historically, been a greater number of older skilled men in the labor force than older skilled women (just because of promotions by seniority).I remember learning that this disparity actually accounts for a pretty sizable amount of the supposed wage gap between men and women.But as time goes on, it makes sense that this disparity would drop. The older men are retiring and the slightly younger women are getting those senior positions at a much greater rate than they have at the past. But the flip side is that men are getting those senior positions at a much lower rate.Hence, relative wages go up for women and relative wages go down for men. Klein may have meant this all along, but it certainly didn’t seem so.Update: Ezra Klein links to this post now claiming that he thought the gender gap in wages is compared in between jobs, not in between the entire labor force. I honestly don't know enough to say whether this is true or not (my impression is that it isn't), but I do know a couple of studies that have compared similarly educated men and women of a similar age have found no statistically significant wage disparity.