Why Men Earn More
by Wendy McElroy
Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap And What Women
Can Do About It
is Warren Farrell's latest book, and a fascinating read.
has stirred vigorous and predictable debate about what causes the
"wage gap" by which the average female employee is said to earn
approximately 80 cents for every dollar paid to a man.
what I view as Farrell's most controversial point remains undiscussed.
Namely, should women use affirmative action that is, government-mandated
preferences to 'correct' the free market's wage gap and make
more money? Farrell, who is usually associated with male empowerment,
provides detailed advice on how to do so, for example through tax-funded
tuition and other programs unavailable to men.
first part of the book revolves around refuting feminism's explanation
of the wage gap: namely that it results from rampant discrimination
against women in the workplace.
arguments surrounding the wage gap are not addressed, however.
example, women's lack of access to various well-paying blue collar
jobs due to union policies and attitudes. But addressing such arguments
is not the book's purpose. Refuting the specific feminist claim
of discrimination is. And Farrell ably accomplishes this goal on
he cites research and extensive government data to demonstrate that
women who compete for the same job often earn more than men, not
Table 6, Farrell compares the starting salaries for women and men
with Bachelor's Degrees in 26 categories of employment, from investment
banker to dietician. Women are paid equally in one category; in
every other category, their starting salaries exceed men's. A female
investment banker's starting salary is 116 percent of a man's. A
female dietician's is 130 percent; that is, $23,160 compared to
Farrell analyzes the data that does reflect a wage gap. But rather
than seeing oppression in the data, he perceives free choice.
argues: women commonly prefer jobs with shorter and more flexible
hours to accommodate the demands of family. Compared to men, they
generally favor jobs that involve little danger, no travel and good
social skills. Such jobs generally pay less.
rejects the conclusion of 'discrimination' because it does not reflect
the fact that female employees express different preferences than
rights advocate Carey Roberts identifies
one such difference. "[T]he sheer amount of work. According to the
Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time men clock an average of 45
hours a week, while women put in 42 hours. Men are more than twice
as likely as women to work at least 50 hours a week."
lifestyle choices partly explain their absence from certain professions,
especially dangerous ones. Roberts observes, "Men represent 92
percent of all occupational deaths. Why? Because if you look
at a list of the most hazardous occupations fire fighting,
truck driving, construction, and mining they have 9698
percent male employees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics."
believes that women can make the same salaries as men and enter
"male professions" if they are willing to make the same employment
choices. Accordingly, he offers practical advice to women, much
of which is extremely useful.
I balk whenever Farrell offers advice on how to maximize government
privileges at the expense of men, who must compete at a disadvantage
and pay taxes for programs that exclude them from benefits.
example, under the heading "Get Hazard Pay Without the Hazards,"
Farrell tells women to enter dangerous occupations. There they can
reap the same salary as men while avoiding comparable risk because
employers who are compelled to hire women commonly shield them from
Farrell explains, women get a "'death professions bonus' with not
much more physical risk than in everyday life."
the military as an example, Farrell argues that women "comprise
approximately 15 percent of active-duty military personnel, and
10 percent of those deployed in Iraq." Yet women constitute approximately
2.6 percent of soldiers killed in Iraq; men constitute 97.4 percent.
Indeed, "in the Marines and Air Force it's a 100 percent chance
of returning." That's because a daughter is "much more likely to
choose, or be chosen for, the military's safer fields."
offers an explanation as to why women's safety becomes a priority.
"Whether...on an Alaskan fishing boat or in the American military,
men's protective instinct toward women, and women's protective instinct
toward themselves (and children) keeps men more disposable than
short, men will assume greater risk to protect a woman co-worker.
Farrell calls this male protective instinct "touching."
course, many women don't wish to be "shielded" from the job they
signed on to do. Others find it offensive for policies to assume
women can't or shouldn't work on an equal footing beside men. Such
women do not wish to exploit those policies; they want to change
quite another factor underlies the situations that continue to make
men "more disposable": government policy. Indeed, even private industry
commonly implements preference for women's safety out of fear of
lawsuits for harms such as exposure to chemicals or other stress
government that discriminates on the basis of sex or race violates
a basic principle of justice. The law must apply to every human
is the core of my disagreement: Farrell believes in affirmative
action and, so, advises women to "game the system" in
order to make money. I reject affirmative action and, so, seek to
eliminate the system in order to make justice.
"Why Men Earn More" goes on my reference shelf as a book I will
quote and re-read despite disagreements.
McElroy [send her mail]
is the editor of ifeminists.com
and a research fellow for The
Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and
editor of many books and articles, including the new book, Liberty
for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century
(Ivan R. Dee/Independent Institute, 2002).
© 2005 Wendy McElroy