Emails,  Jennifer Lee, research associate, Center for Public Policy Priorities, March 12 and 19, 2014

3:56 p.m.

When you compare full-time, year-round male to female workers, women earn 79 cents for every dollar that a man earns in Texas, according to 2012 ACS 1-year data. This is how the “wage gap” is usually calculated. If you expand who you’re looking at to include all employed individuals (whether or not they work full-time or year-round), women earn 71 cents for every dollar that a man earns.


I think it’s helpful to think about the “wage gap” by looking at the factors that research shows contributes to this difference. Using the Blau and Kahn paper that you cited in your previous fact-check, these are the major reasons for the difference:


Occupational and industry category (49%) – Many women are concentrated in particular occupations. Occupations that are heavily female, such as health care support or personal care and service occupations, tend to pay low wages. For example, home health aides in Texas, who are largely female, earn on average $17,430 per year. Women also represent 63% of workers earning minimum-wage or less in Texas. When you break down earnings data by occupation, this gap persists in almost all occupations  


Labor Force Experience (10.5%) – A portion of the gap is explained by factors related to work experience, such as interruptions in work for child care. This penalty is especially impactful to mothers.


Unexplained (41%) – A large portion of the gap is unexplained by women’s choices. This could be because of conscious or unconscious biases (research shows this is particularly acute against mothers). Other research show different attitudes around wage negotiations may contribute to the gender wage gap.


My last thoughts on this:

A lot of people see occupational choices and time off from work as women’s choices. And while this is true, I think it’s important to realize that the choices we make are heavily influenced by the environment in which we make choices, the choices that are available, and how those choices are presented. So while it’s true that more women work in low-wage jobs, there may be reasons why women don’t choose to work in some higher-wage occupations. Similarly, mothers may choose to take time off work to care for young children, but perhaps they wouldn’t if child care were more available or affordable.


Hope this helps.


2:14 p.m.

March 19, 2014

The bolded entries and percentage breakdown come from the Blau and Kahn paper, “The Gender Pay Gap.” (Found here: ) It is widely cited in examining the multiple factors that explain the gender wage gap, and you reference it in your previous Politifact on the wage gap that you sent me.


The percentages denote how much each factor contributes to the wage gap. There are multiple reasons for the differences in pay for men and women, and this is one way to show the relative importance of each. So, Occupational and industry category (49%) means that the occupations and industries that women work in “explains away” about half of the wage gap between men and wo