Unexpectedly Intriguing!
April 29, 2015

According to data published in December 2014 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in its annual Highlights of Women's Earnings report, in 2013, women made up 48.2% of the total number of workers in the U.S. labor force and the average woman in the United States earned 76% of what the average man did.

Also according to the same BLS report, going by the usual number of hours worked each week, the median earnings for women in the U.S. was within 10% of those for men for all but two categories: people who work 60 or more hours per week and also people who work 35 or more hours per week, but whose hours vary considerably from week to week.

Meanwhile, it would appear that U.S. men are paid more to work longer hours, but that U.S. women are paid more to work fewer hours.

But you don't have to take our word for it! Here's the data straight from Table 5 of the report for the number of workers by sex for each category of the usual number of hours worked each week:

2013: Number of Workers by Sex and Usual Number of Hours Worked Each Week
Hours Worked per Week Number of Workers Number of Women Number of Men
1 to 4 hours 520,000 338,000 182,000
5 to 9 hours 1,155,000 771,000 383,000
10 to 14 hours 1,785,000 1,168,000 617,000
15 to 19 hours 2,604,000 1,760,000 844,000
20 to 24 hours 6,654,000 4,307,000 2,347,000
25 to 29 hours 3,200,000 2,081,000 1,120,000
30 to 34 hours 6,268,000 4,035,000 2,232,000
Hours Vary (usually < 35 hours) 2,478,000 1,500,000 978,000
35 to 39 hours 8,128,000 5,380,000 2,748,000
Hours Vary (usually 35 or more hours) 5,427,000 2,060,000 3,367,000
40 hours 70,466,000 32,504,000 37,963,000
41 to 44 hours 1,031,000 390,000 642,000
45 to 48 hours 5,493,000 1,957,000 3,536,000
49 to 59 hours 9,119,000 2,805,000 6,314,000
60 or more hours 4,599,000 1,173,000 3,426,000
All 129,110,000 62,316,000 66,794,000

And here's the corresponding data from the same table as it relates the median weekly earnings by the usual number of hours worked each week:

2013: Median Weekly Earnings by Sex and Usual Number of Hours Worked Each Week
Hours Worked per Week Median Weekly Earnings (Both Sexes) Median Weekly Earnings (Women) Median Weekly Earnings (Men)
1 to 4 hours $58 $56 $61
5 to 9 hours $75 $76 $74
10 to 14 hours $113 $115 $109
15 to 19 hours $159 $163 $151
20 to 24 hours $205 $202 $210
25 to 29 hours $217 $223 $209
30 to 34 hours $264 $270 $255
Hours Vary (usually < 35 hours) $336 $352 $315
35 to 39 hours $495 $507 $466
Hours Vary (usually 35 or more hours) $672 $496 $791
40 hours $732 $691 $771
41 to 44 hours $880 $841 $912
45 to 48 hours $1,054 $993 $1,097
49 to 59 hours $1,270 $1,193 $1,317
60 or more hours $1,373 $1,202 $1,436
All $665 $584 $764

We thought it might be interesting to visualize all the data we've presented in table form above in a single chart. To do that, so we can show all the data with a single axis, we've calculated the percentage of all workers that are women along with the percentage of men's median weekly earnings that women earn for each category of usual hours worked per week.

Women's Share of Hours Worked and Percentage of Men's Median Weekly Earnings by Usual Weekly Hours Worked, 2013

What we see is that the median U.S. woman is typically being paid a 10% premium to work part time compared to a U.S. man working the same number of hours each week. As you can imagine, that kind of financial incentive would go a very long way to explaining why two-thirds of all working Americans who work less than 40 hours per week are women.

But as the number of usual hours worked each week rises, we see that situation reverses. For people who regularly work 40 up to 59 hours per week, women earn about 90% of what a man working the same number of hours does. However, as the number of hours required to earn incomes rise, we also see that fewer and fewer women are to be found working. At the topmost end, we see that for people who work 60 or more hours per week, the median income earned by a woman drops to 84% of the median working earnings of a man who puts in those kinds of hours, and also that only 26% of the total number of people who spend more than half their waking hours per week working at income-paying jobs like this are women.

U.S. women would also appear to be highly averse to working variable numbers of hours each week, which we see in the dips for the percentage share of workers who work varying hours each week with respect to those who work a steady number of hours.

While it is the combination of all these factors that results in the median weekly earnings for American women being just 76% of those for men, we find that it is the relatively higher pay rewards of part time employment for women as compared to men and the relative absence of women who choose to work 60 or more hours at income-paying jobs each week that are the greatest contributors to that statistic.

Data Source

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. BLS Report 1051: Highlights of Women's Earnings in 2013. Table 5. Median usual weekly earnings of wage and salary workers, by hours usually worked and sex, 2013 annual averages. [PDF Document]. December 2014.

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