The Gender Pay Gap

The purported gender pay gap, which supposedly shows that men earn more than women is an perfect example of the use of statistics to trick people into a simple, but false, conclusion: that female employees are discriminated against. Yes, it is true that you average across all employees, women earn less than men - and this is the figure quoted as the gender pay gap. There are two major problems with its calculation and inference as to cause.

1) It does not compare like with like.
For example, it does not take into account the different jobs people do (or perhaps choose to be in) and does not take into account differential levels of training, education and experience. This is the difference between the unadjusted (and most frequently referred to) and the adjusted pay gap (which is much narrower). Furthermore, none of the metrics used take into account ability. Equal ability is assumed, never demonstrated. As far as I'm aware, there has never been a serious attempt to correct for differential ability.

2) It may reflect choices, not discrimination.
It is clear from the statistics that the majority of the pay gap emerges once couples have children. More women than men take on childcare responsibilities, which involves exit from the labour market for a period of time - and often return only part time. These facts account for the vast majority of the unadjusted pay gap. It is unclear (but in my view likely) that more women wish to take on childcare responsibilities than men - therefore the pay gap may reflect life choices, not discrimination.

Pay gap in young workers

In young workers in the UK, the unadjusted pay gap is low, and possibly favours women. It is unclear what direction

Women in their twenties earn more than men

Women earn more than men up to age 35

Gender pay gap down to 5% among UK workers in their 20s, study finds

Adjusting for occupation, age etc - pay gap overall reduces significantly

Pay gap widens after birth of children

The vast bulk of the unadjusted pay gap occurs after the birth of children.

Data Sources


To read



Fathers paid more than childless men.

US Gender Pay Gap

Among post-PhD workers, women on average earn less. But the gap narrows after controlling for the field the PhD was taken in - and disappears if you look at childless women