Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
How is the gender pay gap calculated?
A look at the United States gender gap in 2018 shows that no matter how it’s calculated, it’s still a problem.
The organizations that track American wages agree: There is still a gender gap. Men are still being paid more than women, though things are improving if at an aggravatingly glacial pace. Beyond that, there's not so much agreement. Even working with the similar or the same data — many use the U.S. Census Bureau's figures — there are different ways in which the pay gap is calculated because there are so many angles from which to look at the numbers.
Nonetheless, it's clear to all of these statisticians that the narrowing of the wage gap is proving a far more intractable problem than one might expect. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR), the earliest available data, from 1980 showed women earning just 64.2% of what men earned for the same week of work. Even though that figure in the most recent Census Bureau data, for 2016, had risen to 81.8%:
- 4.4% of that gain occurred between 1988 and 1997
- 3.9% occurred between 1998 and 2007
- Just 2.0% occurred between 2007 and 2016. At that rate, it won't be until 2059 that we actually see equal pay between men and women. As the Census Bureau notes, 2016's 1.1% gain was “the first time the female-to-male earnings ratio had experienced an annual increase since 2007."
The story's even worse for non-whites. Black women make 60 cents and Hispanics 55 cents for every dollar paid to a white male.
Why do some people think the gender gap is a myth?
Beyond those actually looking at the data, not everyone, it seems, believes there is a wage gap. According to a 2018 study from women's investment firm Ellevest, 83% of women believe there's pay disparity (leaving 17% who don't), but among men, only 61% think there's a pay gap based on gender.
It may be that the other 39% of men simply don't want to believe they're being unfairly rewarded for their work. "You don't want to be the bad guy, so you kind of rationalize it in your head," Ariane Hegewisch, study director at IWPR tells CNN. "There are lots of ways of making sense of this for yourself, which doesn't really address the kind of more structural inequalities that I would think we need to fix." Among the more common reasons the disbelievers doubt the data is the argument that surveys don't fully account for men's greater experience, an oddly circular, self-perpetuating claim. Others would prefer to believe that there may be a pay gap in other industries, but not in theirs, and it is true that there are differences among the various employment sectors.
How the U.S. government calculates the gender gap
The U.S. Census Bureau sources its data from their Current Population Survey (CPS) Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) conducted in the 50 states, though not in Puerto Rico and U.S. protectorates. As household counts, they don't include data from those serving military duty, students away at school, the homeless, or the institutionalized.
The agency tracks the weekly wages of people who work full-time, year-round. According to the Census Bureau, a woman employed full-time earned about 80% of what a man earned, or about 80 cents for each dollar paid to her male counterpart.
There are some issues with the agency's calculation, though. The workers whose wages it studies are just one limited group. Even among full-timers, many take time off — especially women who are twice as likely as men to do so, for caregiving or childrearing — and are thus excluded from analysis. In addition full-time, year-round workers are becoming more and more of a rarity as businesses shift to on-demand, hourly employment, and thus the analysis is not as representative of the American worker as it might once have been. Part-time workers and their wages are a significant part of the gender-gap store in 2018.
How other experts assess the pay gap
Among those who take a more all-encompassing view of the Census Bureau's data is the Institute for Women's Policy Research, whose multi-angled analysis reveals a couple of the ways in which different vantage points affect one's conclusions:
- The gender ratio in annual earnings for full-time year-round workers tends to be lower than the ratio for weekly earnings. This is because the annual view includes yearly bonuses and reflects the lower income earned to those who don't work the entire year.
- The annual view of part-time workers reflects a larger gender gap, because — while women may do slightly better (86% in 2012) in weekly wages — their greater likelihood to work reduced schedules reduces their annual earnings compared to men.
Another organization taking a more expansive approach is the Pew Research Center (PRC), whose last major survey to look at the gender gap was in 2013, in which they found, among other things, that hourly wages for millennial women stood at an encouraging 93% of men's compared to the average 84% gap. For now. It looks like men's wages are continuing to grow faster than women's, so the pay gap for all women, including millennials, is likely to widen again going forward.
Pew published a gender-gap update in April 2017 taking into account data from 2015. In it, they concluded that “it would take an extra 44 days of work for women to earn what men did in 2015." We still have a long way to go.
Why does the gender gap persist?
While there seems little doubt that widespread gender bias generally results in placing a general value on the work of men as opposed to women — whether in an office or a home — there are some specific phenomena that perpetuate the pay gap.
As Claire Suddath, writing for Bloomberg notes, working women tend to be clustered in lower-paying fields. Of the top 20 most common careers for both genders, only four overlap — managers, customer service reps, first-line supervisors of retail personnel, and retails salespersons — and women make less in each profession than men do.
The four jobs most likely to be filled by women are:
- secretary and administrative assistant
- receptionist and information clerk
- registered nurse
- nursing, psychiatric, and home health aide
The highest-paid work for women being a registered nurse, at $1,183 a week (male RNs make a mean of $1,261 per week).
The four jobs most likely to be filled by men are:
- driver, sales worker, and truck driver
- first-line supervisors of retail personnel
- construction laborers
The highest-paid of these jobs is a manager, for a median of $1,542 a week (female managers make just $1,188 per week).
Overall, as Suddath says, “The traditionally male-dominated fields pay better—so much better, in fact, that a man with just a high school diploma is likely to make more money than a woman with some college education or even an associate's degree."
It's not even simply the case that women are shunted into these lesser-paying careers. When women begin to take over a previously male-dominated field, the average salary for everyone with that career drops.
As primary caregivers, the demands on women's time are more complex, which is why the U.S. Department of Labor's 2015 American Time Use Survey found that women working full-time work, on average 24 minutes less per day than men. According to respondents, that's due to things they have to get done out of the office: Women are still typically the person most responsible for childcare and housekeeping, even in dual-income households.
The childbearing penalty
Another interesting theory comes from a study of Danish workers — the U.S. isn't the only country with a gender gap after all — that suggests women who have children are ultimately punished with a lifelong pay gap. This is backed up by a 2009 study led by Marianne Bertrand of the University of Chicago that compared the annual salaries of men and women straight out of grad school. Men made $130,000 and women made $115,000, a 12% difference. Nine years later the gap had ballooned to 38% as men made $400,000 and women made just $250,000. “The one thing which is not changing is the effect of children," says Kleven, referring to the presence of other variables. “This is very persistent and constant. All the other sources are declining, but the child effect sticks, and that ends up taking over as the key driver."
What can be done about the gender gap?
There's no question the U.S. federal government could be doing more to address the pay gap between men and women. The last serious attempt to level the playing field was 50 years ago with the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Even the much-lauded Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was merely an attempt to patch a hole in the statues created by the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. Supreme Court decision in 2007.
In the U.S., women's rights are now such a partisan issue that Congress has failed 11 times to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. This is legislation that, among other things, supports employees' rights to share their salary figures with co-workers. Most employees already have this right, in fact, under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, but many employers restrict their employees from sharing this information nonetheless. And why isn't unequal pay simply illegal? That's the approach taken by Iceland. Gender-blind hiring statutes would be part of a solution as well.
Finally, a cultural sea change is long overdue, one in which the needs of workers — female and male — who are caregivers and/or have children are better met by businesses. Among the many suggested steps to be taken are employer financial support for daycare, on-site daycare, allowing parents to work from home, generous and non-punitive, family leave for both parents, and enforced paternity leave, all steps that can help ensure childrearing is no longer primarily a woman's issue, a gender-based impediment to a rewarding career and equal compensation.
A cave in France contains man’s earliest-known structures that had to be built by Neanderthals who were believed to be incapable of such things.
In a French cave deep underground, scientists have discovered what appear to be 176,000-year-old man-made structures. That's 150,000 years earlier than any that have been discovered anywhere before. And they could only have been built by Neanderthals, people who were never before considered capable of such a thing.
This is going to force a major shift in the way we see these early hominids. Researchers had thought that Neanderthals were profoundly primitive, and just barely human. This cave in France's Aveyron Valley changes all that: It's suddenly obvious that Neanderthals were not quite so unlike us.
According to The Atlantic, Bruniquel Cave was first explored in 1990 by Bruno Kowalsczewski, who was 15 at the time. He'd spent three years digging away at rubble covering a space through which his father felt air moving.
Some members of a local caving club managed to squeeze through the narrow, 30-meter long tunnel Kowalsczewski had dug to arrive in a passageway. They followed it past pools of water and old animal bones for over 330 meters before coming into a large chamber and a scene they had no reason to expect: Stalagmites that someone had broken into hundreds of small pieces, most of which were arranged into two rings—one roughly 6 meters across, and one 2 meters wide—with the remaining pieces stacked into one of four piles or leaning against the rings. There were also indications of fires and burnt bones.
Image source: Etienne FABRE - SSAC
A professional archeologist, Francois Rouzaud, determined with carbon dating that a burnt bear bone found in the chamber was 47,600 years old, which made the stalagmite structures older than any known cave painting. It also put the cave squarely within the age of the Neanderthals since they were the only humans in France that early. No one had suspected them of being capable of constructing complex forms or doing anything that far underground.
After Rouzard suddenly died in 1999, exploration at the cave stopped until life-long caver Sophie Verheyden, vacationing in the area, heard about it and decided to try and uranium-date the stalagmites inside.
The team she assembled eventually determined that the stalagmites had been broken up by people 176,000 years ago, way farther back even than Rouzard had supposed.
There weren't any signs that Neanderthals lived in the cave, so it's a mystery what they were up to down there. Verheyden thinks it's unlikely that a solitary artist created the tableaux, and so an organized group of skilled workers must've been involved. And “When you see such a structure so far into the cave, you think of something cultural or religious, but that's not proven," Verheyden told The Atlantic.
Whatever they built, the Bruniquel Cave reveals some big surprises about Neanderthals: They had fire, they built things, and likely used tools. Add this to recent discoveries that suggest they buried their dead, made art, and maybe even had language, and these mysterious proto-humans start looking a lot more familiar. A lot more like homo sapiens, and a lot more like distant cousins lost to history.
A recent study used fMRI to compare the brains of psychopathic criminals with a group of 100 well-functioning individuals, finding striking similarities.
- The study used psychological inventories to assess a group of violent criminals and healthy volunteers for psychopathy, and then examined how their brains responded to watching violent movie scenes.
- The fMRI results showed that the brains of healthy subjects who scored high in psychopathic traits reacted similarly as the psychopathic criminal group. Both of these groups also showed atrophy in brain regions involved in regulating emotion.
- The study adds complexity to common conceptions of what differentiates a psychopath from a "healthy" individual.
When considering what precisely makes someone a psychopath, the lines can be blurry.
Psychological research has shown that many people in society have some degree of malevolent personality traits, such as those described by the "dark triad": narcissism (entitled self-importance), Machiavellianism (strategic exploitation and deceit), and psychopathy (callousness and cynicism). But while people who score high in these traits are more likely to end up in prison, most of them are well functioning and don't engage in extreme antisocial behaviors.
Now, a new study published in Cerebral Cortex found that the brains of psychopathic criminals are structurally and functionally similar to many well-functioning, non-criminal individuals with psychopathic traits. The results suggest that psychopathy isn't a binary classification, but rather a "constellation" of personality traits that "vary in the non-incarcerated population with normal range of social functioning."
Assessing your inner psychopath
The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare the brains of violent psychopathic criminals to those of healthy volunteers. All participants were assessed for psychopathy through commonly used inventories: the Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised and the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale.
Experimental design and sample stimuli. The subjects viewed a compilation of 137 movie clips with variable violent and nonviolent content.Nummenmaa et al.
Both groups watched a 26-minute-long medley of movie scenes that were selected to portray a "large variability of social and emotional content." Some scenes depicted intense violence. As participants watched the medley, fMRI recorded how various regions of their brains responded to the content.
The goal was to see whether the brains of psychopathic criminals looked and reacted similarly to the brains of healthy subjects who scored high in psychopathic traits. The results showed similar reactions: When both groups viewed violent scenes, the fMRI revealed strong reactions in the orbitofrontal cortex and anterior insula, brain regions associated with regulating emotion.
These similarities manifested as a positive association: The more psychopathic traits a healthy subject displayed, the more their brains responded like the criminal group. What's more, the fMRI revealed a similar association between psychopathic traits and brain structure, with those scoring high in psychopathy showing lower gray matter density in the orbitofrontal cortex and anterior insula.
There were some key differences between the groups, however. The researchers noted that the structural abnormalities in the healthy sample were mainly associated with primary psychopathic traits, which are: inclination to lie, lack of remorse, and callousness. Meanwhile, the functional responses of the healthy subjects were associated with secondary psychopathic traits: impulsivity, short temper, and low tolerance for frustration.
Overall, the study further illuminates some of the biological drivers of psychopathy, and it adds nuance to common conceptions of the differences between psychopathy and being "healthy."
Why do some psychopaths become criminals?
The million-dollar question remains unanswered: Why do some psychopaths end up in prison, while others (or, people who score high in psychopathic traits) lead well-functioning lives? The researchers couldn't give a definitive answer, but they did note that psychopathic criminals had lower connectivity within "key nodes of the social and emotional brain networks, including amygdala, insula, thalamus, and frontal pole."
"Thus, even though there are parallels in the regional responsiveness of the brain's affective circuit in the convicted psychopaths and well-functioning subjects with psychopathic traits, it is likely that the disrupted functional connectivity of this network is specific to criminal psychopathy."
Counterintuitively, directly combating misinformation online can spread it further. A different approach is needed.
- Like the coronavirus, engaging with misinformation can inadvertently cause it to spread.
- Social media has a business model based on getting users to spend increasing amounts of time on their platforms, which is why they are hesitant to remove engaging content.
- The best way to fight online misinformation is to drown it out with the truth.
A year ago, the Center for Countering Digital Hate warned of the parallel pandemics — the biological contagion of COVID-19 and the social contagion of misinformation, aiding the spread of the disease. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, anti-vaccine accounts have gained 10 million new social media followers, while we have witnessed arson attacks against 5G masts, hospital staff abused for treating COVID patients, and conspiracists addressing crowds of thousands.
Many have refused to follow guidance issued to control the spread of the virus, motivated by beliefs in falsehoods about its origins and effects. The reluctance we see in some to get the COVID vaccine is greater amongst those who rely on social media rather than traditional media for their information. In a pandemic, lies cost lives, and it has felt like a new conspiracy theory has sprung up online every day.
How we, as social media users, behave in response to misinformation can either enable or prevent it from being seen and believed by more people.
The rules are different online
Credit: Pool via Getty Images
If a colleague mentions in the office that Bill Gates planned the pandemic, or a friend at dinner tells the table that the COVID vaccine could make them infertile, the right thing to do is often to challenge their claims. We don't want anyone to be left believing these falsehoods.
But digital is different. The rules of physics online are not the same as they are in the offline world. We need new solutions for the problems we face online.
Now, imagine that in order to reply to your friend, you must first hand him a megaphone so that everyone within a five-block radius can hear what he has to say. It would do more damage than good, but this is essentially what we do when we engage with misinformation online.
Think about misinformation as being like the coronavirus — when we engage with it, we help to spread it to everyone else with whom we come into contact. If a public figure with a large following responds to a post containing misinformation, they ensure the post is seen by hundreds of thousands or even millions of people with one click. Social media algorithms also push content into more users' newsfeeds if it appears to be engaging, so lots of interactions from users with relatively small followings can still have unintended negative consequences.
The trend of people celebrating and posting photos of themselves or loved ones receiving the vaccine has been far more effective than any attempt to disprove a baseless claim about Bill Gates or 5G mobile technology.
Additionally, whereas we know our friend from the office or dinner, most of the misinformation we see online will come from strangers. They often will be from one of two groups — true believers, whose minds are made up, and professional propagandists, who profit from building large audiences online and selling them products (including false cures). Both of these groups use trolling tactics, that is, seeking to trigger people to respond in anger, thus helping them reach new audiences and thereby gaming the algorithm.
On the day the COVID vaccine was approved in the UK, anti-vaccine activists were able to provoke pro-vaccine voices into posting about thalidomide, exposing new audiences to a reason to distrust the medical establishment. Those who spread misinformation understand the rules of the game online; it's time those of us on the side of enlightenment values of truth and science did too.
How to fight online misinformation
Of course, it is much easier for social media companies to take on this issue than for us citizens. Research from the Center for Countering Digital Hate and Anti-Vax Watch last month found that 65% of anti-vaccine content on social media is linked to just twelve individuals and their organizations. Were the platforms to simply remove the accounts of these superspreaders, it would do a huge amount to reduce harmful misinformation.
The problem is that social media platforms are resistant to do so. These businesses have been built by constantly increasing the amount of time users spend on their platforms. Getting rid of the creators of engaging content that has millions of people hooked is antithetical to the business model. It will require intervention from governments to force tech companies to finally protect their users and society as a whole.
So, what can the rest of us do, while we await state regulation?
Instead of engaging, we should be outweighing the bad with the good. Every time you see a piece of harmful misinformation, share advice or information from a trusted source, like the WHO or BBC, on the same subject. The trend of people celebrating and posting photos of themselves or loved ones receiving the vaccine has been far more effective than any attempt to disprove a baseless claim about Bill Gates or 5G mobile technology. In the attention economy that governs tech platforms, drowning out is a better strategy than rebuttal.
Imran Ahmed is CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate.