In studies from the U.S. to Sweden, pay discrimination can't explain the disparity between what men and women earn. Women earn less because they work fewer hours. Or so writes Kay Hymowitz in the Wall Street Journal.
Ms Hymowitz writes,
First, the Atlantic magazine announced "the end of men." Then a Time cover story in March proclaimed that women are becoming "the richer sex." Now a Pew Research Center report tells us that young women have become more likely than young men to say that a high-paying career is very important to them. Are we really in the midst of what Pew calls a "gender reversal?"And this just raises the question, Why do women spend less time at work?
One stubborn fact of the labor market argues against the idea. That is the gender-hours gap, close cousin of the gender-wage gap. Most people have heard that full-time working American women earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. Yet these numbers don't take into account the actual number of hours worked. And it turns out that women work fewer hours than men.
The Labor Department defines full-time as 35 hours a week or more, and the "or more" is far more likely to refer to male workers than to female ones. According to the department, almost 55% of workers logging more than 35 hours a week are men. In 2007, 25% of men working full-time jobs had workweeks of 41 or more hours, compared with 14% of female full-time workers. In other words, the famous gender-wage gap is to a considerable degree a gender-hours gap.
The main reason that women spend less time at work than men—and that women are unlikely to be the richer sex—is obvious: children. Today, childless 20-something women do earn more than their male peers. But most are likely to cut back their hours after they have kids, giving men the hours, and income, advantage.But can't good government mandated family-leave and child-care policies fix all of this? Ms Hymowitz continues,
Sweden and Iceland are frequently held up as models in this regard [generous family-leave and child-care policies], and they do have some of the most extensive paternity and maternity leave and publicly funded child care in the world.In short, if you work less you earn less. For the foreseeable future women will work less and thus earn less than men.
Yet even they also have a persistent hours and wage gap. In both countries, mothers still take more time off than fathers after the baby arrives. When they do go back to work, they're on the job for fewer hours. Iceland's income gap is a yawning 38%—that is, the average women earns only 62 cents to a man's dollar. Even Sweden's 15% gap—though lower than our [U.S.] 33% one—is far from full parity.