Is The Gender Pay Gap a Myth?


In 2015, women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 80 percent of what men were paid, a gap of 20 percent (Proctor et al., 2016). Median annual earnings in the United States for men and women working full time, year-round were $51,212 and $40,742, respectively. However, very little of this pay gap can be explained by labor market discrimination or the idea that women are systematically paid less than men. The different choices men and women make about college major, occupation, parenting, etc. have traditional roots and life long effects. If you consider a male and female with the same job, marital status, and level of education, you will find that in some industries women actually earn more than men.  According to a new report from Glassdoor’s chief economist Andrew Chamberlain, the following are 5 college majors that lead to the biggest pay gaps in favor of women:

  1. Architecture
    Women earn $1.14 for every $1 men earn
  2. Music
    Women earn $1.10 for every $1 men earn
  3. Social Work
    Women earn $1.08 for every $1 men earn
  4. Advertising
    Women earn $1.08 for every $1 men earn
  5. Environmental Science
    Women earn $1.07 for every $1 men earn

Despite ones political allegiance, there is no arguing that the pay gap is a statistical fact. It is calculated by dividing the median earnings of full-time, year-round, working women by the median earnings of full-time, year-round, working men. However, these data do not take into account gender differences in hours worked, years of experience, educational attainment, or personal career choices.  Nine out of ten of the best paying college majors, including computer science, engineering, and mathematics are dominated by men while six of the ten worst paying majors, including psychology, education, and the arts are dominated by women.


According to the Center for American Progress, 49.3% of the pay gap can be accounted for by the fact that men and women work in different occupations and industries.  It also states that if women didn’t work in traditionally female-dominated industries like nursing and education, their would be virtually no pay gap. Nearly 60% of the pay gap can be influenced by structural and cultural factors that drive both men’s and women’s decisions.

Economics argues that people get paid wages according to their human capital and men and women invest differently in their education, skills, and experience. In 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 23% of women worked part-time jobs while that number was only 13% for men.


The gender pay gap is misleading and often cited in political discussion by both parties when in reality, it does not take into account the different life choices men and women make. It has become a popular narrative used by the media, feminist groups, and college campuses that only adds to the problem. Since the 1960’s, the gap has tightened significantly.  In order to further shrink the pay gap, changes must be realized about cultural trends in the labor market as well as public policy.


5 thoughts on “Is The Gender Pay Gap a Myth?

  1. Victor Matheson

    First of all, I applaud your effort to take an unpopular stand on a controversial issue.

    That being said, the obvious counterpoint to your article would be to ask why professions that are dominated by women pay less on average especially if they require similar training. I don’t have a good answer for this.

  2. nickbotta

    Great post Ryan! I really enjoyed your statistics and comparisons of male and female workers in certain industries. There is so much variation in interests of men and women that it is hard to find a true answer. I wonder what causes the fact that six of the ten worst paying majors are dominated by women. This question I think is a point of debate in many discussions in our current world.

  3. lrtamburello

    This is an interesting post, as it adds complexity to the numbers of the gender wage gap. It is similar to the approach with the current unemployment rate and understanding the complexity behind it. However, the numbers still stand.

  4. tswats18

    I found this post very interesting because you always here reports on how men make so much more than women. Apparently, this is not completely the case. While there may be certain discrepancies in wages between the two genders, there may be different reasons for the differences. This once again proves that statistics have different variables and can be interpreted in different ways.

  5. coreymanley25

    Great article. Fantastic representation of how variables can be manipulated in order to fit someones personal agenda. I think from here, the argument is out of at least a traditional economist’s realm, as the focus transitions more to a behavioral psychological argument or perhaps just psychology.
    -Corey Manley


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