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The Gender Pay Gap Begins as Early as Age 5


The gender wage gap is narrowing, but it persists. In 1963, women earned just 59 cents for every dollar earned by men. Today, the pay gap is smaller – 74 cents on the dollar, or 97 cents when we control for factors like occupation, experience, and skills, per PayScale’s report, Inside the Gender Pay Gap. Over the course of a lifetime, this has a big impact, not just on women but on their families.


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When does the wage gap begin? Some have argued that it’s when women pick a major, or perhaps later in life, when they chose a job, or maybe later than that, if they elect to take time off to start a family. But a recent study from the kids’ magazine Highlights suggests that the gender pay gap begins even earlier, perhaps as soon as age 5, when kids are first getting allowances and doing chores.

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Before we go any further, let’s take a look at a few important facts about the gender wage gap in order to dispel some of these myths.

Facts about the gender pay gap:

1. The gap doesn’t close when women move up the ladder. Women in full-time management, and related occupations in 2014 earned an average weekly wage of $981 compared with men who made $1,346, according to data from Catalyst Inc. In fact, PayScale’s data show that executives have the largest pay gap, even when controlled for experience, title, and so on.

2. No matter how much, or how little, education men and women receive, the pay gap persists. And, it exists across professions too. The idea that the pay gap disappears when women pursue more lucrative fields is yet another myth.

3. The gender wage gap is even worse for older women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Full-time working women, ages 35 – 44, earn about 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. Women in the 65 years and older category only make about 74 cents to men’s dollar. So, experience and time spent on the job doesn’t explain the gap either.

It’s high time we move on, and forward, and accept that the gender pay gap is real and a problem, and that it’s not women’s fault for making poor educational or career decisions. Perhaps our collective unwillingness to accept these facts is part of the reason why the problem continues.

And, maybe turning a blind eye to the problem, denying its very existence, is part of the reason we pass the pay gap onto our kids.

That’s right. The gender wage gap begins during childhood.

Let’s look at three pieces of evidence so that there is no doubt – the gender wage gap begins to affect women (um, girls) as early as age 5.

1. Girls are more likely than boys to be assigned chores.

The Highlights study surveyed children ages 5 through 12. Girls reported having regular assigned chores more often than boys. Over 73 percent of girls said they had regular chores, and only 65.3 percent of boys said the same.

2. Boys spend less time doing chores than girls do.

Research on children’s time usage shows that girls, on average, spend more time doing chores than boys. Boys do about 45 minutes of chores for every hour girls spend. While boys reported doing more basic housecleaning, girls were more likely to clean their rooms, care for siblings and pets, and help prepare meals.

3. There is a gender allowance gap.

Even though girls do more chores, and spend more time on those chores than boys do, they are less likely to receive an allowance. Research has found that 67 percent of boys receive an allowance from their parents, but only 59 percent of girls get one. This is apparently impacting teen girls’ ideas about their future earnings as well. Boys were more optimistic about the financial futures. Forty-three percent of teen boys expect to make more than $35,000 at their first jobs, while only 35 percent of girls anticipate the same.

If we insist on continuing to debate the existence of the gender pay gap, it’s sure to persist. Do we really want to pass this state of fear down to our daughters? Maybe these insights will help us open our eyes to the problem, and give us even greater motivation to do something about it.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you noticed ways in which the gender pay gap starts early? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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Mr. Bored
Mr. Bored

The whole wage gap phenomenon has been debunked, insofar as discrimination against women is concerned, so many times that one is no longer annoyed or bothered to supply evidence–one just becomes bored.


Even some of America’s most sophisticated women choose to earn less than their male counterparts: “In 2011, 22% of male physicians and 44% of female physicians worked less than full time, up from 7% of men and 29% of women from Cejka’s 2005 survey.” See also “Female Docs See Fewer Patients, Earn $55,000 Less Than Men” “…[O]nly 35 percent of women who have earned MBAs after getting a bachelor’s degree from a top school are working full time.”… Read more »

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