New Pay Gap Data Shows It’s Not “The End of Men”

September 12, 2012

Hanna Rosin’s new book, The End of Men, came out yesterday. While I haven’t yet read it, I saw her recent New York Times Magazine cover story and watched a couple of her Daily Beast videos. Rosin’s overall message is that today’s economy favors women over men. While the three Alabama wives Rosin follows in the New York Times Magazine story happen to earn more than their husbands, that situation doesn’t reflect most American women’s experiences.

Today — one day after the release of Rosin’s book — the U.S. Census Bureau released new data that show that in 2011, a typical woman working full time, year-round earned 77 cents for every dollar a typical man earned — the same gap reported for 2010. One might hypothesize, then, that the phenomenon Rosin describes can be explained by the fact that more men than women are unemployed. But as of July, the unemployment rate for men was only slightly higher, at 8.4 percent, than the 8.1 percent unemployment rate for women.

The women Rosin describes are especially unusual among Alabama residents since it is one of the worst states in the country for gender pay equity. As shown in AAUW’s one-stop guide, The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap, Alabama ranked 40th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of equal pay in 2010. The Simple Truth’s state-by-state rankings will be updated to reflect the 2011 numbers when the Census Bureau releases the state data later this month.

Let’s take a closer look at the facts reported by the Census Bureau earlier today.

In the United States in 2011,

  • Median annual earnings for women working full-time, year-round were $37,118, compared with $48,202 for men;
  • 14.6 percent of women were living in poverty, compared with 10.9 percent of men; and
  • more than 7.8 million women lived in extreme poverty, which is defined as income at or below 50 percent of the poverty level, compared with 5.3 million men.

As these statistics make clear, even in 2011, women continued to earn less than men and experienced higher rates of poverty.

I guess what’s most troublesome about Rosin’s message is that it suggests that if women succeed in the labor force, that will spell the end of men. Women are far from out-earning men, and it’s much more common for a man to earn more than his wife than the opposite. Yet articles like Rosin’s suggest that women are displacing men. At AAUW, we’re not looking to engage in a battle of the sexes. Our goal is for men and women to be equally capable of achieving economic security for themselves and their families. In 2011, women earned just 77 percent of what men earned. We’ve still got a long way to go.

By:   |   September 12, 2012

1 Comment

  1. Geraldine L. Oberman, Ph.D. says:

    Christi,
    Your comments help members to fully understand the “real issues” around the pay gap debates. And the numbers cited tell the “real story”. A sample of women from one state with a depressed history of pay equity does not explain most women’s experiences. Women always have to be vigilant of backlash attempts to explain away our needs as well as our accomplishments!

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