COMMENTS: Not Equal

ABC continued on the economic tack with a pair of reports on wages and salaries. Today is dubbed Equal Pay Day, to dramatize the disparity between women and men: it marks the extra 16 weeks each year that the average woman would have to work to pocket the same pay as the average man. Betsy Stark (subscription required) took A Closer Look at the gender gap and found that the so-called motherhood penalty--a career disruption caused by taking years off for childrearing--was only a partial explanation. Freshly graduating female students, for example, entering their first job are paid 5c on the dollar less than their male colleagues in the same occupation: one explanation is that young men are tougher negotiators whereas young women settle for the salary on offer.

Stark's report did not examine those vast portions of the workforce that never graduated from college and whose wages are not subject to negotiation, either aggressive or passive. Surely Stark does not suggest that for those workers the gender gap does not apply.

Alpha magazine gave John Berman the idea for a story on really disparate wages. Last year hedge fund manager James Simons was paid a salary of $1.7bn. Berman went to a supermarket to wonder how any worker could deplete such a wage packet. "How much for everything?" "What do you mean? How much for everything?" "Everything." "For the entire store?" Sorry, just $2.6m. "A billion dollars is hard to spend."


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