Cornell University

May 8 2012

Sorting Through Statistics

Barrington explains how wage gaps are calculated

A "he said/she said" argument of sorts broke out during NBC's "Meet the Press" over the gender wage gap in the United States.

Republican strategist Alex Castellanos and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow exchanged the heated words April 29. To sort through the discussion and statistics, NPR's Here & Now turned to ILR's Institute for Compensation Studies.

Linda Barrington, the institute's managing director, spoke on the air with show host Robin Young to explain how wage gaps are calculated and how to interpret related statistics.

"Yes, [women] are paid less," Barrington said in the May 3 broadcast of "Here & Now." "But, the debate is over how much less and why they are paid less."

When comparing individuals with the same education and years of experience in the same job, the gap is around 5 percent, not 25 percent, she said.

It would also be correct, however, to claim that women are paid around 80 cents for every dollar that men are paid, Barrington said. What needs to be understood is that this is the "raw" number, not taking into account that women work fewer hours, on average, then men and work in different kinds of jobs.

Barrington stressed that important gaps in educational and career outcomes do exist and provide evidence of barriers women face in achieving equality.

Related Link: Audio of Here & Now interview.