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Warren Farrell on Why Men Earn More

Warren Farrell On Why Men Earn More

Why Men Earn More and What Women Can Do About. Warren Farrell. New York: AMACOM, 2005.


Warren Farrell’s book Why Men Earn More and What Women Can Do About  is a useful resource on the topic – a topic that surfaces most prominently on the eve of presidential elections only to disappear again afterwards. Shortly before the last US election, BBC America and MSNBC both ran stories on the wage gap on the same day, apropos nothing at all, seemingly as a conspiracy-theory-inducing coordinated action. The BBC made a special point of saying “for exactly the same jobs.” That is not remotely true. While individual instances of unfairness may be found, the 20% difference is due to factors like different occupational choices, choices of college majors, continuity of service, willingness to relocate, men who work full-time working more hours than women who work full-time, men commuting twice as far as women on average, and most particularly, women taking time off to raise children. Never married childless women earn more than never married men on age. [1] Thomas Sowell points out that comparing “single” men and women is misleading because it includes divorced women who may have worked part-time or not at all while their children were young.

The wage gap is definitively not the result of a pay differential between men and women within exactly the same jobs. When such claims are heard on the supposedly reputable BBC and from politicians it understandably sounds improbable that what is being said is a lie.

The following is a summary of key arguments in Farrell’s book – Why Men Earn More together with some more recent research.

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Warren Farrell first became suspicious about any links between income disparities between men and women, and discrimination, when it occurred to him that if you could pay women twenty percent less for doing the same job as men, then any company would be irrational to hire men. In a free market, having twenty percent lower labor costs would provide a significant competitive advantage. Since Warren Farrell cannot be the only person to have thought of this, he reasoned that there must be something misleading about pay disparity claims.

What he found was that the statistics frequently cited are not comparing men and women doing the same jobs with the same work experience, continuity of service and length of time at the job. It is not enough to compare the incomes of male and female “doctors” and “teachers” because those titles cover quite different specialties with different pay rates.

For instance, due to supply and demand, high school mathematics teachers are likely to be paid a bit more than English teachers. This is partly because fewer people have the skills to teach mathematics and partly because math teachers might be able to get jobs in industry that pay a lot more and the schools must offer a somewhat competitive wage.

Social scientists use the term “granularity” for deciding what level of specificity to look at. Not all math and physics teachers are created equal either, some having better credentials, more work experience, etc., etc. All these factors are relevant to whether there is some unfairness about different pay rates.

It is currently imagined by many liberals that the relative lack of women in the sciences and computer programming which typically pay well has something to do with sexism. However, it turns out that the more egalitarian a country is between the sexes, the more men and women make different career choices. Scandinavian countries have far fewer women in STEM careers than countries like Iran or India[2] where the position of women is a lot worse. In Iran and India women are close to 50% of engineers.[3]

Thus sexual dimorphism reveals itself more when men and women are given more opportunity to freely choose what they want to do. It is related to the fact that for biological reasons, women as a group tend to be more interested in people, and men as a group in things. That this has been accepted as fact by at least some feminists can be seen in the title of this journal article “The Gender-Equality Paradox in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education.”[4] Although the only “paradoxical” aspect of it is that it runs contrary to feminist ideas.

Other less egalitarian areas of the world have numbers like Central Asia (47.2%), Latin American and the Caribbean (44.7%), Central and Eastern Europe (39.6%), and the Arab States (39.9%)[5] while the USA has (29%).[6]

When women do go into the sciences they tend to favor life sciences like biology and veterinary science, [7] as opposed to mathematics and physics.

While high mathematical ability in men tends to be correlated with low emotional intelligence and low reading ability,[8] this is not the case for women. So women who are good at math also tend to be good readers with high social skills and they tend to gravitate towards jobs involving more social interaction. This is not a feasible option for a large portion of men who are particularly good at math.

Another major reason that men and women tend to make different career choices has to do with selective pressure from women. Most American women’s preference is to marry a man who earns more than them. Women tend to select men at the same income level or higher. This is for the straightforward reason that most American women who plan to marry and have children would prefer to work part-time or not at all in order to devote more time to their children when the children are young. Thus, if a man wishes to be loved by a woman and to be thought of as a desirable mate, he must concentrate on earning as much as possible in order to be seen as an attractive breadwinner. This means that women effectively pressure men to maximize their earning potential.

Women are primarily responsible for sexual selection which is an important part of evolutionary natural selection. To some extent, women are “nature.” Unattached men tend to be looking around for attractive women who seem interested and unattached women are the ones who say yes or no. The biological fact of pregnancy means that sex for women carries a higher guaranteed import for women than it necessarily does for a man. Female chimpanzees mate indiscriminately, women do not. This choosiness has probably contributed to the growth of human intelligence and our big heads which contribute to women’s woes in childbirth.

It is largely men who set up hierarchies of achievement; be it drag car racing, poetry composition, guitar playing, high finance law, or political office, and then women who select from among the “winners” according to their own status as a woman.

It is women who decide if a man will get to have children. A woman who says to a man, “I like you as a friend,” is saying “You’re a nice enough guy, but you are not worthy of passing on your genetic material.” Evidence of the unrealistically high standards of women is the fact that women rank 85% of men as below average looking – a numerical impossibility.

A handsome but unemployed man who lives at home with his parents is likely to remain wifeless, frustrated and possibly angry. A beautiful unemployed woman, on the other hand, is still seen by most men to be highly desirable. In fact, given most women’s urge to “marry up,” earning a high salary for a woman will reduce her self-selected pool of potential husbands to those few men who earn more than she. Given that men prioritize looks in women, if the high earning woman is not also stunning she is likely to complain that there are no “good” men available.

It might seem like women are gold diggers and men are superficial, but both factors are driven by the imperative to reproduce. The outcome for children educationally, emotionally and in employment is far superior if there is a father at home. Men play a provider, protector role and are particularly important to produce calm, successful sons. And good looks in women is associated with healthy children. The common factor between male and female desire is kids.

For these reasons, when it comes to work, more women have the freedom to focus on quality of life choices rather than sheer earning potential. This can be seen in their choice of majors. Eighty percent of art history majors are women and eighty-five percent of engineering majors are men, despite women knowing that their earning potential as an art history major is going to be significantly lower than engineers. Also, when women who work full-time get married, it is not unusual for them to quit their full-time job and find a part-time job or lower paying full-time job that they enjoy more.

Two factors will make it particularly hard for women to compete with top earning men. One is that in a moderately fair society like the US, hierarchies are largely hierarchies of competence. A very few people tend to be responsible for nearly all productivity, such as the publication of scientific papers. Very few scientific papers are then cited. Less than 1% of books are responsible for 90% of all book sales. Who are likely to be in this select group?

To be a top lawyer, for instance, a person must be fanatically hard working, obsessed and intelligent. Male intelligence while having the same average as women, has a wider distribution – having more instances in the “tails” of the bell curve. More men are mentally challenged than women, and there are more men with genius-level IQs than women.

Since a man’s social status, his perceived worth and desirability as a mate is closely related to his job and his income, and given the distribution of general intelligence at the upper levels going disproportionately to men, which is highly correlated with educational and vocational attainment, men are going to be very fierce competitors for top positions like being a CEO.

Being such an obsessed worker, clawing your way to the top at all costs, is to be slightly crazy and to have a low quality of life. Fewer women especially once they have recognized all the sacrifices involved are going to be as motivated as men in this regard or to have the necessary other characteristics.

However, very few people of either sex are CEOs and top lawyers. This means that though many feminists look enviously at these powerful men, most men are not in positions of great power and do not earn huge incomes. We must look elsewhere to explain the wage gap; namely to the death professions – what Farrell calls the glass basement. These reasonably high paying jobs are almost never mentioned by academic feminists because they do not want them. They are not high prestige and have severe drawbacks.

Farrell points out that traditionally male occupations tend to pay more than traditionally female occupations for a number of reasons having to do with supply and demand. There are several characteristics of male-dominated jobs that are severely unappealing to most people. These include hard physical labor, working outdoors and being exposed to extremes of hot and cold, and rain, a significant chance of injury and/or death, and a good chance of not making it to retirement due to injury or death. Such occupations include coal miners, truckers, loggers, roofers, contractors, boilermakers, linesmen, garbage collectors, firefighters and police officers. Traditionally female jobs tend to have attractive characteristics. These include flexible hours, little job training, an indoor environment, a chance for reasonably pleasant social interaction and a short commute. Some examples are sales assistants, check-out assistants, waitresses, daycare workers and to a much lesser degree, nurses. Nursing involves some pretty unpleasant activities and a fair amount of physical effort, plus reasonably extensive training and they get correspondingly higher pay.

Farrell sees the male occupations as representing a mostly forgotten underclass of men whose lives are regarded as disposable.

Men and women choose different specialties within fields like medicine. Surgeons make some of the highest salaries in medicine. The unattractive aspects of being a surgeon include being on call, and thus, having unpredictable work hours. Surgeons, when actually performing surgery, have an unconscious patient with whom no emotionally rewarding interaction is possible. It is high stress, life or death. Most surgeons are men. Women dominate psychiatry which has regular hours, nine to five, and a chance to have some kind of emotional communion with one’s patient which may be more emotionally fulfilling then slicing body parts on an operating table. Farrell sees these differences as reflecting quality of life decisions on the part of women and an economic imperative directed at men.

Men are also more likely to accept jobs requiring long commutes; men commute on average twice as far as women, and to relocate to parts of the country away from friends and family. Men work longer hours than women. On average, full-time male workers work nine hours more than full-time female workers. Farrell says that those extra few hours a week can make a big difference to income.

There is a biblical saying “From he who has much, much will be given. From he who has little, even that will be taken away.” When choosing who to promote or who not to fire, the employee who is say 14% more productive is the logical choice. Businesses that do not behave in this way will lose out to the competition.

Something similar can be seen with an employee of either sex who is 15% better than his or her colleagues. The tendency is for everyone to try to send work their way and none to the inferior worker. If a boss needs a report to be written and then to submit this report to his superiors he is going to want the best report he can get because that makes him look good. He will try to get the worker who writes the best to do it every time. This is why small differences between people often lead to very different outcomes. Being 15% better does not mean 15% more work or pay but possibly to 50% or even 100% more work or pay.

One of the main reasons women earn less than men is that they tend to interrupt their careers to look after children and are more likely to be part-time workers. Part-time work in the U.S. tends to lack what American call ‘benefits;’ namely, health insurance, pensions and paid vacations. Part-time work is also typically paid much worse, so that workers working twenty hours a week do not usually earn half what someone working forty hours a week earns, but much less. Men and women who take years out of their careers and then try to return to their careers tend to never make as much money as they would have if they worked consistently.

Farrell writes that the only way he could get published by a relatively prestigious academic press, Oxford University Press, was by having a feminist riposte tacked on at the end. He tries to imagine how feminists would react if a male rejoinder was demanded for every one of their books. The book was Does Feminism Discriminate Against Men? James Sterba takes the feminist role. Sterba’s argument, for the most part, annoyingly skirts the most irrefutable aspects of Farrell’s arguments, thus conceding little, and selects relatively minor points to challenge. One of Sterba’s strangest arguments comes in his response to why men earn more. He says that the solution to the wage gap is to make full-time employment compulsory for all and with a corresponding requirement that all children be placed in daycare, coming close to Plato’s reductio ad absurdum in The Republic when Plato has similar compulsory nurseries so that children will be brought up anonymously by strangers in order to avoid unjust favoritism by parents for their own children.

Sterba’s cure seems worse than the disease.

Farrell’s position is that men and women should organize their lives according to their preferences as much as possible. It seems that more women are interested in taking a dominant role in childcare duties than men. This is in line with sex differences (dimorphism) to be found cross-culturally. Little girls, for instance, tend to draw pictures of people and families far more often than boys who tend to draw “action” scenes, perhaps involving rocket ships and the like.

Both spouses working part-time would not make much economic sense given the pay disparity between full-time and part-time work and both spouses working full-time leaves raising one’s child up mostly up to other people. This may be attractive for some or an economic necessity too. But, so long as couples are lucky enough to be able to select the living arrangements of their choosing, the “wage gap,” will remain.

The highest earning men tend to be married. This will partly be because they have been selected by their wives partly for this very reason, and partly because they wish to provide for their families. It is also the case that anyone who works eighty hours a week as the most productive and highest earning people often do will have little to no time to devote to household responsibilities or having an active role in child raising. Such a person will need someone willing to play the traditional role of a wife. But, most women will not tolerate such a comparatively unsuccessful, low status husband. One woman executive remarked that she would feel used; a position that men simply accept.

The idea of the so-called “wage gap,” usually on the back burner, tends to make its appearance around the time of elections. Both Republican and Democrat politicians are likely to mention it. The majority of voters are women, partly because they are a larger percentage of the population, and it is a chance to pander by people who presumably know better.




[2] Government of India, Ministry of Human Resource Development, “Table 35: Out-Turn/Pass-Out at Under Graduate Level in Major Disciplines/Subjects (Based on Actual Response),” All India Survey on Higher Education (2015-16) (2016): p. T-103.





[7] Lofstedt, J. (2003). Gender and veterinary medicine. The Canadian Veterinary Journal, 44, 533-535.

[8] Stoet, G., & Geary, D. C. (2015). Sex differences in academic achievement are not related to political, economic, or social equality. Intelligence, 48, 137-151.

Richard CocksRichard Cocks

Richard Cocks

Richard Cocks has been a faculty member of the Philosophy Department at SUNY Oswego since 2001. Dr. Cocks is an editor and regular contributor at the Orthosphere and has been published at The Brussels Journal, The Sydney Traditionalist Forum, People of Shambhala, The James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal and the University Bookman.

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