Many Americans have heard that for every dollar a man earns, a woman earns way less. Maybe as little as 56-78 cents, as stated on the White House’s website.
It’s clear that women’s average pay is lower than men’s, no matter their age, race, education or experience. Check the Current Population Survey, a yearly report by the Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Half of all college-educated men between ages 25 and 34 who worked full time in 2014 earned at least $59,702. But the median pay for college-educated women in the same age range working full time was $49,959. That’s $9,743 less, or 16 percent.
The gap barely shrinks when job experience is taken into account.
Half of full-time working men between ages 25 and 44 who put in at least 50 weeks earned at least $46,738. Half of women with the same experience earned at least $40,082. It’s just $6,566 less, but still a 14 percent difference.
But watch how much the pay gap shrinks when marital status is considered in the chart below. (Tap or mouseover for more details.)
Median earnings for American men and women working full-time in 2014
Source: 2014 U.S. Current Population Survey
Median earnings were $36,696 a year for full-time male workers, 18 or older, who have never been married. For half of unmarried women surveyed, earnings were at least $33,896. It’s $2,800 less, or eight percent.
But this doesn’t come close to ending debate on why men tend to get paid more than women in America.
Why does marital status have such a huge effect on the pay gap? Why do unmarried people earn so much less than married, widowed or divorced people?
Why do married men earn so much more than every other group in the chart? Are men who are motivated enough to get married also disciplined enough to go after a high-paying job? Or are men with high-paying jobs more attractive to women looking husbands?
Do women who get married tend to be more traditional, working lower-paying jobs that allow them more time for staying at home to raise kids? Or do companies penalize women who get married and more time with the kids than at work?
Is there a huge flaw with this dataset? Past Current Population Surverys show similar gaps between unmarried men and women. It’s possible all past surveys were flawed, but the chances are low.