Carpe Diem

‘Equal pay day’ this year fell on April 9; the next ‘equal occupational fatality day’ will occur on December 20, 2023


Every year the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) publicizes its “Equal Pay Day” to bring public attention to the gender pay gap. “Equal Pay Day” this year fell on April 9, and represents how far into 2013 the average woman had to continue working to earn the same income that the average man earned last year. Inspired by Equal Pay Day, I introduced “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” in 2010 to bring public attention to the huge gender disparity in work-related deaths every year in the United States. “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” tells us how many years into the future women would have to work before they would experience the same number of occupational fatalities that occurred in the previous year for men.

A few weeks ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released new data on workplace fatalities for 2012, and a new “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” can now be calculated. As in previous years, the chart above shows the significant gender disparity in workplace fatalities in 2012: 4,045 men died on the job (92.3% of the total) compared to only 338 women (7.7% of the total). The “gender occupational fatality gap” in 2012 was considerable — almost 12 men died on the job for every woman who died while working.

Based on the new BLS data, the next “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” will occur more than ten years from now ­­– on December 20, 2023. That date symbolizes how far into the future women will be able to continue working before they experience the same loss of life that men experienced in 2012 from work-related deaths.  Because women tend to work in safer occupations than men on average, they have the advantage of being able to work for more than a decade longer than men before they experience the same number of male occupational fatalities in a single year.

Economic theory tells us that the “gender occupational fatality gap” explains part of the “gender pay gap” because a disproportionate number of men work in higher-risk, but higher-paid occupations like coal mining (almost 100 % male), fire fighters (96.6% male), police officers (84.8% male), correctional officers (72% male), farming, fishing, and forestry (77.3% male), roofers (98.5% male) and construction (97.5% male); BLS data here. On the other hand, a disproportionate number of women work in relatively low-risk industries, often with lower pay to partially compensate for the safer, more comfortable indoor office environments in occupations like office and administrative support (73.3% female), education, training, and library occupations (73.6% female), and healthcare (75% female). The higher concentrations of men in riskier occupations with greater occurrences of workplace injuries and fatalities suggest that more men than women are willing to expose themselves to work-related injury or death in exchange for higher wages. In contrast, women more than men prefer lower risk occupations with greater workplace safety, and are frequently willing to accept lower wages for the reduced probability of work-related injury or death.

Bottom Line: Groups like the NCPE use “Equal Pay Day” to promote a goal of perfect gender pay equity, probably not realizing that they are simultaneously advocating an increase in the number of women working in higher-paying, but higher-risk occupations like fire-fighting, roofing, construction, farming and mining. The reality is that a reduction in the gender pay gap would come at a huge cost: several thousand more women will be killed each year working in dangerous occupations.

Here’s a question for the NCPE that I ask every year: Closing the “gender pay gap” could only be achieved by closing the “occupational fatality gap.” Would achieving the goal of perfect pay equity really be worth the loss of life for thousands of additional women each year who would die in work-related accidents?

25 thoughts on “‘Equal pay day’ this year fell on April 9; the next ‘equal occupational fatality day’ will occur on December 20, 2023

  1. Mark,

    It’s fun to play with statistics, but you’re not doing your audience any favors with this line of argument.

    Equal Pay Day is based on a simple premise: equal pay for equal work. If you and I are both hired to make widgets, and our end of year evaluations show that we’ve both hit the same target, I think we’d both expect to see the same size paycheck.

    That’s not always the case, though, and Equal Pay Day highlights a disparity that acts as a drag on our economy: if a large part of the work force is coming home underpaid, that’s money taken off the table that could otherwise be used to fuel investment and consumer demand.

    To cite a current example that illustrates the problem: Bloomberg just reported on a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association. In the study, “female physicians in the US continue to earn less than their male counterparts, with the pay gap widening during the past two decades to more than $50,000 annually in 2010.”

    This isn’t a “coal miners vs. secretaries” argument. It’s a serious disparity that needs analysis, because it potentially harms us all.

    • You know the answer but really don’t want to do the homework. There hasn’t been a gender gap in pay for many, many years and in fact there are many professions where women make more than men. I really get tired of having to listen or read this type of junk from folks like you that can always find a victim that needs to be saved.

    • In what specialties were the female physicians? These wage disparities for exact employment have been around for years and debunked for years. If females would work in the EXACT jobs with the EXACT skills with the EXACT experience for the EXACT amount of time for much, much less compensation, what employer on earth would EVER, EVER hire a male???

    • If I can really hire women to do the same work as a man for less cost, why wouldn’t I hire only women? It would give me an advantage over my competitors who kept hiring men. Do you think those who hire doctors really want to increase their costs by having more males on their staff?

    • 99ers-

      i think you need to go read the piece mark posted earlier.

      women just starting out are paid MORE than men after college.

      they also earn the same amount if you control for children.

      the simple fact is that women are more likely to leave the workforce than men. if they do not, they are paid just as well.

      this is not a discrimination issue, it’s a business sense issue.

      if you have 2 employees that are equally qualified, but one is likely to leave work for several months and then come back distracted, which one are you more likely to train and promote?

      particularly at a start up, such considerations are no joke as you do not have a deep bench to replace and cover for people nor the kind of bankroll to keep paying them while they do not work (which you will likely be legally required to do).

      in my experience having hired a great many people, it’s comes down to somehting very simple: you pay for reliability and productivity.

      women without children are every bit as reliable and committed as men. but women planning to have kids or who get pregnant and or have young children become much less so. this is not some character flaw, it’s just biology and decision making. i doubt very much that anyone argues that a woman who is 8 months pregnant or just had a baby is as productive at work as they were previously.

      wouldn’t asking/demanding that an employer ignore this actually amount to discrimination? after all, what of the people who did not make such choices and are, as a result more productive? shall we discriminate against them? why is it my job as an employer to to this in opposition to my own best interests?

      as sam said, this issue is self resolving.

      if sexist firms overpay men, then non sexist firms that hire the more reasonably priced women will have an advantage and tend to win in the end.

      this whole argument seems based on the idea that firms do not know what’s good for them but that you do.

      that seems a preposterous notion.

      • morganovitch,

        There is too much logic in your comment. People who tend to believe in the ‘pay gap’ myth, especially after to many decade, will not be swayed by any amount of logic.

        The ‘pay gap’ lie serves just one purpose – it is a superb test via which to filter people. Anyone who believes in the ‘pay gap’ myth, and that government intervention is the solution to it, is someone you don’t want anywhere near your business, or your personal life.

    • Equal Pay Day is based on a simple premise: equal pay for equal work.

      No it isn’t because everyone all ready get paid the same for doing the same work. Equal Pay Day is about extracting money from men, who work harder, work longer hours, and work more years than women, and give that money to women.

      It’s fun to play with statistics

      Particularly, when you’re going to lie through your teeth the way you just have.

    • The author’s physician comparison is specious.

      Male MDs tend to cluster in private practice and work longer hours. Female MDs love to work at HMOs with set hours and schedules.

      Male MDs also gravitate to the surgical specialties which are higher paid than pediatrics and family practice.

    • The problem with this argument is that the statistics cited in talking about the gender pay gap are comparing the average hourly wage for women vs. men, but not adjusting for differences in choie of careers. It is NOT comparing the average wage for all male teachers with the average wage for all women teachers, for example. And even if it did, the percentage of women vs. men who obtained advanced degrees which moved them up on the pay scale would have to be taken into account, in addition to things like length of career, etc. In other words, the statistics cited in talking about the gender wage gap are like comparing apples to oranges…to have a serious discussion of the issue, we need to compare apples to apples.

  2. Hey just be happy…in FY 2015 Fort Hood Terrorist Hasan would have qualified for lifetime full pension and medical coverage for the rest of his life, courtesy of the VA, at taxpayer expense.

    A $3 million deal for Hasan. The guy was nuts.

    At least (I hope) we taxpayers will be spared that expense….

  3. It should be noted, women are the ones who have children.

    And, they tend to spend much more time raising children.

    That, in itself, would cause a huge income gap between men and women.

    The question is what, if anything, should be done about that?

    • It should be noted that men are the ones who spend the bulk of their lives at work, sacrificing family time, so their families don’t have to want for anything.

      And they tend to work harder, work longer hours, and spend more years working so their wives don’t have to.

      That in and of itself would cause a huge family time gap between men and women, as well as a life expectancy gap. Due to the higher demands placed on men, they have higher blood pressure, higher stress levels poorer eating habits, and poorer exercise habits, which results in lower life expectancy, much higher suicide rates, and much, much higher on the job death rates.

      The question is what, if anything, should be done about that?

        • So do I, but the point of my comment was that you are missing your point with your question “The question is what, if anything, should be done about that?”, by which, of course, you meant what should politicians and bureaucrats do? They shouldn’t do anything. In fact, they’ve done too much all ready, destroying lower class families by incentivizing bastardom, broken homes, and absentee fathers through the welfare schemes. People are perfectly capable of “doing something” all by themselves. A husband and wife team don’t need nosy politicians and bureaucrats stepping in to break trust and take sides. All that does is exacerbate current problems and create ever more of them.

          • Ken, your point is just an anti-government rant.

            Bad government policies should be rescinded rather than “shouldn’t do anything.”

            Your prior suggestion, i.e. employed men working harder for their wives than employed women for their husbands, may have merit.

          • Of course it’s an anti-government rant. Politicians and bureaucrats are at the heart of the disintegration of the family in the lower economic class. In an effort to make the lives of those who live in the economic classes better, these arrogant, egotistical, yet profoundly ignorant, politicians and bureaucrats made this people’s lives a hell on earth. This is typical of government action. Do you know why? Because of the knowledge problem.

            That you, a person who doesn’t know me or my family, would presume to know what “should” be done, and forcibly through the police state, is nothing short of a narcisistic personality disorder. That you would look at my family and see that I make more than my wife and thing “What should be done about that?” is psychotically arrogant. As if you could possibly know what trade-offs my wife and I are willing to make and as if you could possibly think that my wife’s life is actually worse off than mine because I make more.

            The reason that I am anti-government on ALL social policies is because the basis of these policies is that psychotic arrogance that you could possibly 1) know there is a problem, 2) come up with a solution that would actually takes into account all the preferences of other people, and 3) actually implement it effectively without making the situation worse. You’re an arrogant asshole, as I’m sure you think I am. Yet, you are asking me to select politicians to run your economic life. While I may be an arrogant asshole, I am not nearly so big a one as you, who actually thinks you know what’s best for me and my family, to include my family structure and trade off of duties. Only a giant, gaping, psychotic asshole could possibly be so gigantically arrogant as the presume to know that.

          • Why is it that any thread that goes more than 5 or 6 posts deep turns into personal attacks and name calling? This used to be a really great blog, but not so much anymore.

          • Ken, I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re the one whose demonstrated arrogance on economic policies.

  4. Prof. Perry points out these facts under the assumption that women care about facts and logic. If they did, this ‘pay gap’ lie would not still persist after all these decades.

    Actually, the ‘pay gap’ meme is useful, as it is a superb test. Anyone who truly believes in it is a great way to see which people to keep far away from your business, and your personal life.

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