In March of 1981, an economics professor named Lester C. Thurow published a slightly controversial, yet not truly radical essay in the New York Times, entitled “Why Women Are Paid Less Than Men”. In his essay, he makes the assertion that women historically and economically make less than their male counterparts, and advances his theory as to why that is, relying not on confusing, anecdotal evidence, but on hard analysis of the peculiarities of the existing job climate.

According to the statistics, women typically make only sixty cents on the dollar, that is, 60% of the total 100% that men make. He also brings forth a related statistic, in that minority women are paid less than Caucasian women, but notes that that figure is rapidly changing, catching up, as minority women make a larger percentage of their male counterparts' wage, and minority men are gaining a foothold, and will probably make as much as white men in another 10-15 years.

Thurow next brings up several of the popular theories as to why exactly this phenomenon takes place, and then methodically deconstructs them. George Gilder’s Wealth and Poverty asserts that the 40 percent gap in earnings is simply a law of Mother Nature, due to the fact that women spend the time caring for their families that men spend focusing on their careers. However, Thurow says, Gilder’s only hard evidence for this theory is that this state of affairs has always been in effect. The only evidence for it is the effect, and that is no evidence at all.

Discrimination against women” seemed to be the most popular and easy answer of the time, but Thurow disagrees with this theory as well. He points to the lessening discrimination against minorities, and asks why this particular breed of sexism is not declining at a similar rate, if that is the case. He argues that racism is easy, because discrimination against another race, someone entirely outside your sphere of influence, is less difficult than discrimination against women, who surround men at all times. One would have to believe in the basic stupidity of all men to believe in this theory.

Another possible theory is that women are basically less educated than men, that secondary education, college and other higher education institutions are less important to females than to males, and they are thus less able to attain higher powered jobs. But this data is circa WWII, and quite out of date, and as the education gap has narrowed so much as to be nonexistent in recent years, he claims, this can clearly not be the case.

At last, Thurow submits his own theory. There is a crucial span of time for people who wish to become professionally successful in their chosen fields, usually the decade between ages 25 to 35. He argues that this particular decade is all-important in most professions, that this one is when it counts most to apply oneself and when most serious job opportunities become available. It is this particular decade when a great deal of women typically leave their fields of work to pursue families and children, or a variant on that familiar theme.

His proposal to rectify this particular situation is twofold. First, that couples that wish to have children and build a familial relationship should have their children before or after this ever-so-crucial decade (before age 25 or after age 35). Perhaps society should endeavor to change the existing system, modify it so that there is a longer time period in which careers can be built and furthered.

Thurow’s article first presents the barebones statistics of the situation and its history, then examines and discards several popular theories as to why this particular set of circumstances exists. Finally he presents his own viewpoint on the subject, and advances avenues by which the present state of affairs can be fixed. He proposes that the wage discrepancy has nothing to do with women’s ability or competence, and instead has everything to do with societal situation and chronological circumstance.


Look ma, I noded my homework! And Walter and waterhouse helped !

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