Friday, November 14, 2008

Job Segregation and the Wage Gap

Sociological Images has some sharp observations regarding the wage gap between men and women and how it relates to a phenomenon called 'job segregation.' As Lisa explains:
Men and women are sorted into different jobs and jobs associated with women are paid less.

Below is a list of occupations and their average wages for 2007 from The Bureau of Labor Statistics. I picked out occupations that were rather straightforward (not a random sample, just an illustrative one), put them in order from lowest to highest, and colored them according to whether they are feminine (pink) or masculine (blue) occupations...

Parking Lot Attendants: $8.82
Child care workers: $8.82
Coatroom attendants: $9.18
Bellhops: $9.25

Sewing machine operators: $9.31
Manicurists and pedicurists: $9.60
Home health care aid: $9.62

Stock clerks: $9.85
Janitors: $10.00

Hairdressers: $10.68
Security Guards: $10.85
File clerks: $11.06

Pre-school teachers: $11.12
Barbers: $11.31
Receptionist: $11.40
Bus Driver (school): $12.43
Construction workers: $13.13
Butchers: $13.87

Dental Assistants: $15.17
Bus Driver (city): $15.94
Roofers: $15.98
Car mechanics: $16.43
Truck drivers: $17.41
Electricians: $21.53

Lisa draws three conclusions from her observations:
1. Occupations that are disproportionately female "cluster towards the lower wage end of this hierarchy."
2. Neither the difficulty of the job nor its importance to the community is the determining factor in how wages are set for each occupation:

Car mechanics are paid more than dental assistants. They require a similar amount of training, yet we still pay those taking care of our cars more than those taking care of our teeth.

And pre-school teachers are paid less than butchers and bus drivers. Is preparing our children for school less important than getting them there? Do we value the man preparing our meat more than we value the woman tending to our child?

3. In professions that have two distinct titles for males and females, the female equivalent earns less: "For example, maids are paid less than janitors and hairdressers are paid less than barbers."

Enlightening, isn't it?


Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

Wow, thanks for posting this. Out of all the jobs I have done in my life thus far - this is very interesting to see.

And as a society I do and don't understand why we put value over certain jobs compared to others. Why pay a Receptionist $11.40 an hour when a CEO makes $40.60 per hour lets say? One conclusion is that it shows that we value profit over people.

Lindsay said...

Great points and questions... well demonstrated. One more resource to point to when people say they don't believe in a wage gap.

Kekla said...

This is interesting as a wage-gap comparison, with regard to things like maid/janitor, barber/hairdresser. However, I'm not sure it's really a useful analysis on the whole-- especially the part about wage setting, because there are a lot of factors not being taken into consideration. First of all, think about the differences in who sets these wages, and who uses the services provided.

Empirically, it seems like we should be value our dental assistant more than our mechanic, but the public really doesn't have control over how much either gets paid. You pay the garage for your car service, and you pay the dental practice for your teeth cleaning. We do pay our DENTISTS a lot more per hour than our mechanics, and the staff wages for both are lumped into the final fee the consumer pays.

Similarly, with child care workers vs. manicurists. Yeah, we should pay more for child care than getting nails done, but look at who is doing the paying. Working parents need to afford child care, so charging what it's truly worth is impossible, whereas only people with excess money can get a mani-pedi, so salons can charge whatever they want.

Comparing pre-school teachers to bus drivers is a more useful analysis because both may be publicly funded or paid by a single school system, and used by the same parents.

I'm not saying that the relative wages for any of these jobs are fair, but just that they don't exist in a vaccuum.