Why Equal Pay for Equal Work is Morally Right

Money QueenIt is 2012, but some politicians are still living in the 1950s as the War on Women continues to take center stage with some very old-fashioned views coming forth from the political arena. Take a look at this one:

“You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday…” – Senator Glenn Grothman (R)

How many times have you heard the myth:

“Men should get paid more because they need the money to support their families.”

Well, let’s be realistic – family demographics all over the United States have changed. It used to be that almost 80 percent of people were the traditional father/mother married couple where the woman stayed home and did not work. Now, the number of married couple is actually less than 50 percent and a majority of women work in double income households, many without children. Yet, men and women stuck in a time warp believe that men are still the breadwinners? That more men than women need the money to support families? Assuming that “family” means kids, this fact is easy to check using the BLS and 2010 U.S. Census data.

The Data

On March 24th, 2011 the BLS put out an Economic News Release detailing the employment characteristic of families in 2010. To be fair, we can’t just compare how many men have families to support without comparing it to female heads of households – the biggest growing demographic in the United States today. Then, we get a very accurate picture of what’s going on with the American family and how the “Father Knows Best” retro-ideal is actually hurting children in America and putting them into poverty. If the basis of giving men $1 for every .77cents a woman earns is the social obligation to care for our nation’s children, then one must ask:

Who exactly is caring for the children and what are they making?

From http://www.bls.gov/news.release/famee.nr0.htm:

 Among the 34.5 million families with children,87.4 percent had an employed parent in 2010, down from 87.8 percent in 2009. The 2010 proportion is the lowest since the data series began in 1994. The mother was employed in 67.0 percent of families maintained by women with no spouse present in 2010, down from 67.8 percent in 2009. The father was employed in 75.8 percent of families maintained by men with no spouse present in 2010, little changed over the year. Among married-couple families with children, 95.7 percent had an employed parent in 2010, unchanged from the prior year. The share of married-couple families where both parents worked fell to 58.1 percent in 2010 from 58.9 percent in 2009.

The problem with these figures is that 34.5 million is for all families, both married and single parent families that worked. However, the percentages of married couples where both worked is 58.1 percent of married couple families. In order to find out how many married couple families that only had one spouse supporting it, we have to work our way backwards, which the total number of married couples that worked being 95.7 percent not 100 percent.

Remember that the BLS states that in 2010, 34.5 million families had children. How many of those families were single parent households and how many were married couples? Of the single parent households, how many of those families were headed by a man alone and how many by a woman alone?

We find that information in the Stat of the Day: The Amazing Decline of the Iconic Household.

They list for 2010:

11.1 million single parent families (11.6 in another survey  listing 9.9 single mothers and 1.7 million fathers)


23.58 million married couples with children (some with double incomes)


= 34.6 total families supporting children (very close to the same statistic offered in the BLS).

Then we need to remove the double income families because they already make more than any other household demographic so the reasoning that they need “extra money” to support kids is a moot point. They already make more due to the nature of the fact that both individuals work.

Going back to the first stat, we still need to figure how many of the 23.58 million married couples with children had a double income and those that had a single income. First we start by taking 95.7 percent to figure out those that actually worked (23.58*.957=22.56 million). We know that 58.1 percent of the total were also double income families (23.58*.581=13.70 million). That leaves 8.86 million married couples where either the father or the mother supported the family alone, despite being married.

Now we want to know: How many married households of the 8.86 million had a male single earner and how many had a female single earner?

From the 2010 Census and information at http://activerain.com/blogsview/1449754/census-more-women-take-on-role-of-sole-breadwinner-  we know that in 2009,  7 percent of all families with children had a female head of household or 1.65 million. So, the rest of the married households that were supported on one income had to be male: 8.86 million – 1.65 million = 7.21 million.

The Final Results

For all the households with children in the United States that depend solely on a male “breadwinner” the actual numbers are 7.21 million of married couples and 1.7 million of single parents.

Grand Total of Male Breadwinners:  8.91 million households.

For all the households with children in the United States that depend solely on a female “breadwinner” the actual numbers are 1.65 million of married couples and 9.9 million of single parents.

Grand Total of Female Breadwinners: 11.55 million households.


The majority of men supporting children “by themselves” are in married relationships and have a spouse working to care for the children which adds tens of thousands of unearned income to the household. The majority of women supporting children by themselves are single and have no one contributing unearned income to the household, providing free childcare, and other types of stay-at-home services. However, the women are making only .77 cents to each $1 a man earns. They can’t afford to hire it either. Tell me again who needs to be making more to support their families – the men or the women?

It’s obvious from this analysis that if the Federal Government enforced equal pay laws, they could probably save a ton of money on TANF.

5 responses to “Why Equal Pay for Equal Work is Morally Right

  1. Pingback: money and mommies | Celia Sue Hecht

  2. Thank you for the excellent analysis. I was actually surprised by the numbers and they do make Grothman’s statement even more infuriating. It goes without saying that the statement is sexist and not based in fact. What I’d like to add to this is: I’m disturbed by the total lack of inclusion of single women or lesbian women with families in Grothman’s assessment. Even if Grothman’s assertions were right about men being breadwinners – that doesn’t justify paying single women less than single men. Needless to say this is also unfair to lesbian couples. It’s as if he’s saying to all women gay or straight – if you’re unsatisfied with unequal pay, you should just find a man to make up for it. I guess discrediting the single lifestyle as well as gay families is what they call “family values.”
    Another interesting point is the circular logic involved in the argument that men should continue to be breadwinners because they ARE breadwinners (supposedly.) Duh. There is a reason men have traditionally been sole breadwinners – it’s called sexism and unequal pay! The bottom line is this – who needs what more is a subjective assessment and should be irrelevant to anti-discrimination laws and practices. That’s why it’s called Equal Pay for Equal *Work* – not equal Need, or Equal-History-of-Getting-Paid-Equally!
    -Elitist Slut

  3. What puzzles me is that women who read these stats still frame the argument as just as many female “co-breadwinners” as male ones. I don’t get that at all. It’s as you say, the arguments are skewed towards married families as if single parents or lesbian families are not real families and should never be mentioned.Unfortunately, that sexist view is touted by married heterosexual women as much as men who don’t realize the damage they are doing to their own gender or simply don’t care because they “got theirs.” Even if it were a religious view, from a purely monetary standpoint, it is unfair to penalize the income of female households because it’s the children that suffer. Yet, the unspoken hypocrisy is that a single mother or a lesbian family should be discriminated against because they’re evil or sinners or something. Or as someone told me: “They did it wrong.” So, they’ll continue to uphold ridiculous discriminatory values because they simply think only a heterosexual married couple with children is a “family.”

  4. I’d like to also add that people shouldn’t be discriminated against for NOT having children either. Everyone should get paid based on their contribution, not their familial status or anything else.

  5. If we look at the pay scale of women earning 77 cents to every $1 a man makes, a male gay couple make $2, a straight hetero couple makes 1.77, a female lesbian couple makes $1.44 versus the single woman who makes only .77 cents – whether they have children or not. The sexist bias in pay scale penalizes all women, whether they have children or not, but more so those that do have children and are single.

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