Yesterday on the State Of The Union address, Barack Obama mentioned something that I have heard a number of times in the past. This information is taken directly from the White House website:

On average, full-time working women earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.

But this probably doesn't include things such as:

  • Years of experience.
  • Previous experiences.
  • What time they start/leave or how long their breaks are.
  • Highest level of education.
  • Efficiency.
  • Etc.

What is the BEST approximation of the difference in the wages of men and women that actually do the same job and have extremely similar resume/working habits? I feel like the 77 cent figure isn't very accurate at all.

  • 4
    I don't think you should assume the figure doesn't take that into account, but you could ask whether it does. Either way, there's a lot of inconsistent data about what the pay gap is, but it tends to be around 75 to 90%.
    – Publius
    Jan 30, 2014 at 3:01
  • 1
    What @Avi said. Every time I've heard that figure explained (and it's used a lot without explanation), it's in the context of "A woman with the exact same work history and job will earn X% less..."
    – Bobson
    Jan 30, 2014 at 15:25
  • 2
    It also doesn't include things like whether "same job" means "providing same value to the company". If (a big questionable if) men are more apt to take more risks, they may generate more payoffs.
    – user4012
    Jan 30, 2014 at 16:26
  • 2
    @Shahar, You bring up some good points for possible differences, but it probably isn't the main one. This often reported statistic comes from the Census, and it is the ratio of median full-time annual women-to-men income over all occupations. The census definition ignores teachers and the self-employed, where the BLS has a median weekly income that puts the ratio at 81% (still comparing all occupations). The biggest element of the pay gap is that women choose jobs that pay less. It will take a while to compile a comprehensive answer, but the pay gap reported isn't women doing equal work.
    – user1873
    Jan 30, 2014 at 19:02
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    Baloney. If I could pay women less for the same output (job) i'd be a fool to ever hire a man....I could steamroller my competition on cost of labor alone....further, women owned small businesses employ many more women than corporate america ( if you believe the "war on women"claims).so, is it women who are purposefully under paying other women?
    – user4697
    Oct 31, 2014 at 5:44

3 Answers 3


At most, the unexplained pay gap is between 4.8% and 7.1%

The 77% figure is often criticized because it is a raw aggregate based on several assumptions. For example, women tend to work fewer hours, in lower paying professions, with less work experience. The 77% figure for median full-time woman, does not take any of those differences into account.

A study commissioned by the United States Department of Labor, Gender Wage Gap Final Report concluded that:

"There are observable differences in the attributes of men and women that account for most of the wage gap. Statistical analysis that includes those variables has produced results that collectively account for between 65.1 and 76.4 percent of a raw gender wage gap of 20.4 percent, and thereby leave an adjusted gender wage gap that is between 4.8 and 7.1 percent."

The vast majority of the difference can be explained by the occupations that women tend to work:

[Bayard, Hellerstein, Neumark, & Troske, 2003; Groshen, 1991; Sanborn, 1964] Groshen (1991) explains that, within her most detailed categories, which essentially consist of detailed occupations within individual establishments, the pay of men and women who work in the same category is almost equal. Based on those categories, which generally are either predominantly male or predominantly female, the proportion of workers within an occupational category who are female can account for between 50 and 60 percent of the raw gender wage gap. With less detailed categories, the percentage is smaller, but still ample.

A detailed statistical analysis of interindustry differences in the size of the gender wage gap has been conducted by Fields and Wolff (1995). Their analysis has examined three increasingly detailed sets of industry categories, and has found that, as the industry categories become more detailed and more numerous, the range of sizes estimated for the gender wage gap in different industries increases. [this can] account directly for as much as 22 percent of the gender wage gap. Further, the observed difference in the distributions of male and female workers among the industries can account for an additional 19 percent of the gap

Work Experience is also a major factor:

[Blau & Kahn, 2006; Boraas & Rodgers, 2003; Gabriel, 2005; Light & Ureta, 1995; U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO), 2003 (since renamed U.S. Government Accountability Office)] In particular, Blau and Kahn (2006) report that results from their statistical analysis indicate that women's gains in work experience during the 1980s account for about one third of the total narrowing of the gender wage gap over that time.

Women tend to take time off for childbearing and motherhood:

Examining the reductions in earnings that have been observed after career interruptions that have lasted at least one year, Light and Ureta (1995) [...] account for as much as 12 percent of the raw gender wage gap.

[Anderson, Binder, & Krause, 2003; Budig & England, 2001; Dey & Hill, 2007; Johnson, 2008] Budig and England report that, in their baseline analysis, having children is associated with a 7.3 percent reduction in the wages of mothers. After the effects of the mothers' absence from the labor force and their consequent diminished accumulation of pertinent experience are taken into account statistically, however, the reduction in wages is decreased to 4.7 percent. Then, after accounting statistically for job characteristics that might be especially appealing to mothers, such as part-time status or flexible work schedules, the reduction is decreased further, to 3.7 percent.

  • Disregard my other comment. This is a nice explanation--especially given the question's specificity with 'same job'
    – user1530
    Oct 31, 2014 at 18:53

This is actually a very difficult question because finding the pay gap between people with the same job, responsibilities, and working habits, is hard enough, but when you try aggregating all of those cases, things can get very hairy very quick.

But for the sake of humoring you, Here's the first figure that I've found. It ends up being's 81.5%

By looking at a very specific and detailed sample of workers (graduates of the University of Michigan Law School) economists Robert Wood, Mary Corcoran and Paul Courant were able to examine the wage gap while matching men and women for many other possible explanatory factors – not only occupation, age, experience, education, and time in the workforce, but also childcare, average hours worked, grades while in college, and other factors. Even after accounting for all that, women still are paid only 81.5% of what men "with similar demographic characteristics, family situations, work hours, and work experience" are paid.[20]


  • 1
    If you want a web page discussing a number of potential metrics, you can see Politifact's page on Obama's statement. It might help to include exerpts in your answer: politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2014/jan/29/…
    – Publius
    Jan 30, 2014 at 4:46
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    -1. The "research" missed the most obvious possible difference: are they performing the same in terms of revenue generated (which is NOT part of demographic characteristics). Women have a well documented bias for lower risk tolerance at work; which is bount to translate to lower revenue in many cases. Especially in software engineering where most productivity is driven by star developers developing tools and frameworks, frequently as skunkworks projects on their own risk.
    – user4012
    Oct 31, 2014 at 14:23
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    @SamIam - his answer is VERY straightforward. There is ZERO difference for doing "same job" if you define "same job" as "same productivity and perofrmance"; because if there was a systemic gap, it would introduce a clear opportunity for arbitrage. Reference: Economics 101. Since we don't observe such arbitrage AT ALL, there's no systemic gap, and thus the difference in #s is due to incorrectly measuring them (which is obvious, since no research covers revenue generation instead of "same position" generalization)
    – user4012
    Oct 31, 2014 at 14:46
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    @DVK, it is unlikely that women doing the same work are getting paid less, there is a law against that. Equal Pay Act of 1963 The majority of the differences between the median full-time pay is explained by women and men's personal choices. Women choose to work in lower paying fields, are twice as likely to work part time (work fewer hours), take more time off for childbearing/motherhood (less work experience), and other known factors. These factors explain all but the remaining 5-7%, which probably isn't due to discrimination.
    – user1873
    Oct 31, 2014 at 15:57
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    When facts say that there is a gap, and all these ideas like arbitrage, the illegality of a wage gap and risk aversion leads to poor code design say that there can't be a gap, what you have is a counter indication for the idea, not a lying fact. So what this shows is that arbitrage is not as effective as you would wish, revenues are not always lower from careful coders and laws are not always followed or upheld. You should make ideas fit facts, not try to change facts to fit your pet ideas! Mar 11, 2017 at 15:57

In Russia women usually earn more than men for office jobs. This is due to a number of reasons.

Women usually start carriers earlier and study more prestigious subjects

It is not uncommon to see 17-18 years old girls in offices, while spotting men younger than 25 is rare. This is because

  • The office-based professions such as accounting, finances, law, administration, marketing and personnel management (human resources) as well as deeply learning foreign languages are usually seen to be more women-oriented. Men usually initially aim at technological specialities, and only after that they switch to those more needed by the market (technology is depressed in Russia at the moment). But after graduation they came to offices only to find there a lot of girls with impressively-sounding diplomas in exactly those office fields rather than men's "applied mechanics" and the like.

  • Women often study in evening-time or remote education institutions, starting working or attending specialized courses at parallel. By the time of the graduation they usually have enough experience. Even in normal institutions where the majority or women study (social sciences, economics etc) usually have much simpler curriculum compared to the technological specialities. Men on the other hand cannot go to social sciences because those institutions do not have a military department which is necessary to avoid army enrollment after education. Conditions in technological institutions are severe: more years of study, more hours a week, a lot of home work, mandatory attending, high percent of those filtered away before graduation. This makes working in parallel with study impossible. Not to say about those who was conscripted to the military.

  • Discrimination of younger men. Many employers think of younger men as of undisciplined, scattered and unattentive, unlike women even not capable even of accurate work with papers. Only experienced, aged men are respected.

Women usually have easier work conditions than men

  • Women usually allowed to leave workplace exactly in time, while men are required to sit till late in the night. They may enjoy more frequent vacations and other social benefits. A man asking for these things looks awkward and attracts attention.

  • The superiors, both men and women usually more sympathetic to the women. Female superiors due to female solidarity, male superiors often due to the "knighly" behavior or because of sexual attractiveness and pleasant appearance. The managers prefer to have women as helpers.

  • In mixed collectives women often cooperate to exert pressure on men on the workplace. They often ask men to help do some job for them (such as writing a request to a database or fix a table in Excel, the things most of them never studied). Most men agree because see it as a form of flirt or recognition of their professional skills, but if they refuse, the women usually start a biting campaign, claiming the man "has no team spirit", "cannot work in a team" etc.

  • 2
    This is all really interesting! I really would like some sources for this! Mar 11, 2017 at 16:00

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