Published on Jobs and Development

Gender Wage Gap: Better but Still Way Too Large

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Solomon Polachek is a Distinguished Professor at Binghamton University – SUNY.

Despite equal pay legislation dating back 50 years, American women still earn 22 percent less than their male counterparts, although this figure is down from 40 percent in the 1960s-1970s. In the United Kingdom, the gap is still 21 percent, and in France and Australia, it is around 17 percent. What can be done to further narrow the gap in industrial countries? To learn more, the JKP recently spoke with Solomon Polachek, a Distinguished Professor at Binghamton University (SUNY) and an expert on the topic.

Gatwick airport sign, 2010, United Kingdom. Photo credit: Flickr @Kathy Dempsey
Polachek explains that an effective solution rests on a better understanding of the source of earnings differences. He takes issue with the commonly held belief that the culprit is corporate discrimination per se. Rather, he says, the differences stem from demographic differences. In particular, the gender wage gap is small for singles and young people, but higher for older people and married people — especially for those with children.

Thus effective policies to speed up wage convergence should involve government actions to stimulate a further rise in women's lifetime work, such as eradicating taxes that decrease wives' incentives to work. Repealing marriage taxes would increase women's incentives to invest in education and training, and better enable women to climb the corporate job ladder. Promoting high-quality day care would do the same.

This post was first published on the Jobs Knowledge Platform.


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