Warren Farrell systematically demolishes the claim that the difference in the average earnings of men and of women reflects discrimination against the latter. Although he avoids academic jargon and therefore does not refer to the concept, at the heart of Warren Farrell's meticulously researched investigation of the reasons behind the pay gap is what economists refer to as 'compensating differentials'.
In return for higher wages, men are prepared to subject themselves to less favourable working conditions. More specifically, men generally do less pleasant jobs, for longer and less sociable hours, commute further, are more willing to relocate and expose themselves to less pleasant and more dangerous working conditions along with various other sacrifices, large and small, which Farrell documents.
For example, all of the most physically dangerous occupations, from construction work and mining to soldiering and fire-fighting, are overwhelmingly male dominated. As a result, in any given year, men represent over 90% of workplace fatalities.
As Farrell observes, if discrimination by employers were the reason for the lower earnings of women, one would not expect to find any difference in earnings among individuals who are self-employed. However, in fact, the gap in earnings between self-employed men and women is actually far greater than that among employees. Self-employed women earn less than half the earnings of self-employed men (at xx). Unless one is prepared to invoke the implausible notion that consumers discriminate against women even more than employers do, discrimination cannot account for this.
Farrell goes further than most economists by hinting that, not only is discrimination unnecessary to explain the gender pay gap, but that employers may lessen the pay gap by actively discriminating against men. For example, he unearths one study which found that, before they give up work to raise families, female executives are actually promoted faster than male executives such that "prior to age 40 women are 15 times more likely... to become top executives at major corporations" despite the fact that "the male executives work more hours, travel more, move more, earn more MBAs [and] have more job continuity" (p86).
In the UK, a study published after Farrell published his work confirms Farrell's suspicions, finding that, when employers are sent CVs identical save for the sex of the applicant, they actually prefer female candidates, not only in traditionally female-dominated occupations, but also in some traditionally male occupations such as chartered accountant and computer analyst programmer (Riach and Riach 2006).
Perhaps the most interesting of the many facts uncovered by Farrell's meticulous research is the finding that, among individuals who have never married and have no children, women actually earn more than men and have done at least since the 1950s (xxi). Never-married men without children earn only 85% of their female counterparts (xxiii).
There are at least four reasons for the difference in earnings between married and unmarried men and women:
i) Married women get away with working less because they appropriate a portion of their husband's income in addition to their own;
ii) Married men and men with children are therefore obliged to work harder and earn more so as to financially support, not only themselves, but also their wife and offspring;
iii) Women prefer to marry rich men and therefore the men who marry are generally wealthier than those who don't - according to data cited by Bruce Ellis (1992: p269) "American men who marry in a given year earn about 50% more than men of the same age who do not";
iv) Childcare duties undertaken by women interfere with their earning capacity.
2) What Women Can Do About It
In addition to documenting the reasons underlying the pay gap, Farrell proposes in his subtitle to address the issue of 'what women can do about it'. The front cover advertises that the book "includes 25 ways to improve your pay!" and, on the back cover, the book is classified as in the "self-help" category.
Farrell does, indeed, address the issue of how women can improve their pay. This largely involves subjecting themselves to the same working conditions as men (e.g. commuting further, tolerating less pleasant working condition etc.).
However, Farrell goes further and shows that women can actually earn the same as men without undergoing the same risks and conditions due to anti-male discrimination.
For example, he documents how, in the armed forces, women serving in Iraq get the same pay as men but have only a quarter the risk of being killed. In addition, they are subject to laxer conditions of physical fitness in order to be admitted. (See also
Men, Women & War: Do Women Belong in the Front Line?
As Wendy McElroy observed in her review of the current work on her ifeminists website, it is perhaps surprising that the best-known champion of the Men's Rights Movement is apparently advocating that women take advantage of the favourable (and discriminatory) conditions available to women in dangerous occupations. McElroy, in contrast, regards exploiting these forms of anti-male discrimination as unethical.
Farrell's decision to market the book in this way likely reflects financial imperatives, the desire to increase sales and attract a mainstream publisher. Instead of merely preaching to the converted (i.e. enthusiastic men's rights advocates who will purchase any book Farrell authors no matter how it is marketed), Farrell and his publisher clearly attempted to expand the potential audience for his book by marketing it to women hoping to improve their earnings. In doing so, this enables Farrell to document the unfair discrimination practised by employers such as the military against men, ostensibly to encourage women to take advantage of it.
My own pragmatic opinion is that if, by marketing the book in this way, some readers who would not have looked twice at a book by Warren Farrell which was marketed as a Men's Rights text are drawn to purchase the book and, in doing so, are made aware that much of what feminists and their fellow-travellers in the mainstream media propagate about the pay-gap is fallacious and misleading, then this marketing strategy will have been worthwhile, no matter how unethical one considers encouraging women to take advantage of anti-male discrimination to be in principle.
3) Why Women Aren't Really Interested in Doing Anything About It
The truth, however, is that women are not really motivated to do anything about the pay gap (other, that is, than whinge, complain, seek to justify continued anti-male discrimination and author endless best-selling but bitter and flawed feminist polemics). This is because they have no need to.
As Farrell points out, "although men earn more money, women often have more, spend more and have it longer" (p203).
This topic is addressed in Farrell's twelfth chapter, entitled, somewhat clumsily, 'Genetic Celebrity Pay Gap'.
[Farrell is blessed with the ability to coin both brilliant aphorisms and second-rate sound-bites, yet also with no apparent ability to tell which is which. His concept of 'Genetic Celebrities' falls into the latter category. It is misleading in that it implies that sufficient physical attractiveness to qualify as a 'Genetic Celebrity' is, like celebrity, is rare. However, Farrell himself acknowledges that "the opportunities are available to almost all women" (p191) at least when they are young.]
Unfortunately (and uncharacteristically), Farrell does not support his contention that women have more money and spend more money with hard data. Indeed, this chapter alone seems uncharacteristically short on references and statistics.
It is true that he documents how top female models earn five times as much as their male equivalents (p197-8). However, models represent only a tiny proportion of the population, yet Farrell contends that the opportunities created for women by their greater "social desirability and beauty power... are available to almost all women" (p191).
Curiously, although he also cites anecdotal evidence of the difference in tips available to waiters and waitresses (p190), he does not refer to inequality of opportunity in the sex industry, where differences in earnings between male and female porn stars are well-documented and where some careers are virtually exclusively available to women (e.g. heterosexual prostitution).
The hard data is, however, available. Interestingly, it has been collected, not by ideologically-blinkered social scientists, but rather by researchers in the marketing industry. Concerned with the prosaic bottom-line of maximising sales by marketing to people with the most money to spend, they cannot afford to falsify their findings so as to accord with feminist preconceptions (what Jack Kammer calls 'data rape').
David Thomas (in
Not Guilty: The Case in Defense of Men
) also provides considerable data on the disproportionate wealth and spending power of women along with insightful analysis on how this contradicts feminist assumptions of male power and privilege. Although he focuses on the situation in the UK and his statistics are now somewhat out of date, the situation is similar to that in other developed countries and has changed little since in the two decades since Thomas's work was published.
Although lacking in hard data, Farrell's analysis is nevertheless perceptive. Among other issues, he discusses the female tendency to marry men of higher social status than themselves (hypergamy) as a form of "disguised income" and observes that "the men executive's income is also his wife's income" yet "the wife of the executive man has more time to spend it and usually makes more of the spending decisions" (Ibid.).
Feminists have sometimes claimed that the tendency of women to marry for money reflects their inability to achieve wealth through other means due to inequality of opportunity in the workplace. In fact, the better view is the precise converse of this. Women have generally not been motivated to undertake the hard work typically required to earn large amounts of money because they have the easier option available to them of marrying it instead.
Indeed, it might be argued that the entire process of human courtship is designed to effect the redistribution of money from men to women - from the social expectation on men to pay for dinner on the first date to the legal obligation to financially support an ex-wife for anything up to twenty years after he has belatedly rid himself of her.
A popular saying claims that 'behind every great man is a great woman'. This is, of course, a way for individual women to claim vicarious credit for achievements that are not their own, and for feminists to claim vicarious credit on behalf of womankind as a whole.
However, modified slightly, the saying has an element of truth. Although women do not contribute to the greatness or success of great or successful men, they certainly benefit from it. It would therefore be more accurate to say: Behind every successful man is a woman spending a portion of his earnings in addition to her own.
4) Can anything be done to reduce the gender pay gap?
If women will not be motivated to follow Farrell's advice on how to earn more, what then can be done to reduce the gender pay-gap?
According to the perspective championed by professor Kingsley Browne in his excellent
Biology at Work: Rethinking Sexual Equality
(a work covering much the same material as that of the work currently under review) the pay-gap is the result of different work-life choices which are themselves ultimately traced to biologically-based differences in the psychology of the sexes. On this view, equalising the pay of men and women will, in the absence of genetic engineering or yet more reverse discrimination, remain a utopian aspiration.
However, although we may never completely eliminate the gender pay-gap, there are ways in which it could be reduced. International comparisons of the magnitude of the disparity in earnings provide an interesting starting point.
Paradoxically, the countries in which the pay gap is narrowest are not those most infested with feminists, but rather those with traditional sex roles. For example, in Bahrain, a highly traditional Middle-Eastern country, women actually earn 40% more than men (
Should We Mind the Gap?: Gender Pay Differentials and Public Policy
This is because, if women are not encouraged to engage in paid employment, then only highly qualified, educated and motivated women will choose to do so. Discouraging women from paid employment would therefore likely reduce the magnitude of the pay-gap.
On the other hand, perhaps the most practical means of reducing the pay-gap would be to reform divorce law.
As the law currently stands, there is little incentive for women to pay heed to Farrell's advice as to how they can increase their earnings, since, rather than earn more money for themselves, the easier option of marrying and appropriating the money earned by their husbands is always open to them. If women were prevented from doing this through the abolition of maintenance, alimony and the redistribution of wealth on divorce - or perhaps even the abolition of the legal institution of marriage altogether (or at least the 'privatisation' of marriage, such that couples draw up the terms of their own marriage contracts) - then women would presumably be obliged to either work harder and earn more money for themselves or content themselves with a lower standard of living.
Neither of these proposals are likely to appeal to feminists. However, the latter proposal, namely a reform of divorce and family law, should be welcomed by all true advocates of the equality of the sexes and of fairness more generally, quite irrespective of its probable effect on the pay-gap.
Of course, even if marriage as a legal institution were abolished, men would still most likely spend a large part of their earnings on women and give money to women in exchange for affection and sexual favours.
Therefore, perhaps the only way to change women's behaviour in such a way as to make them more willing to undertake work of the sort typically reserved for men would be to first change men's behaviour in such a way as to make them less willing to financially support indolent wives and girlfriends. This is, of course, the aspiration of the so-called 'MGTOW' movement.
However, given the extent (and innate nature of) the male sexual drive, this is unlikely to represent a realistic prospect - at least until such time as technological and pornographic progress facilitates the development of more cost-effective alternatives to women as means of sexual relief (see
Love and Sex with Robots
However, in the shorter term, given the current state of family law and divorce law, it is likely that more and more men will realise that marriage represents a bad deal and resort to less extortionate forms of sexual release such as promiscuity, prostitution, pornography and perversion (i.e. the so-called
Ellis, B.J. (1992). The evolution of sexual attraction: evaluative mechanisms in women. In J.H. Barkow, L. Cosmides, and J. Tooby (Eds.) The adapted mind (pp. 267-288). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Riach, P.A. and Rich, J. (2006). An Experimental Investigation of Sexual Discrimination in Hiring in the English Labor Market. B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy, 6, Article 1.