The race for Assembly District 40 fact check: is there a gender pay gap?

by Brian Bahouth

Graphic based on data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics - image - Brian Bahouth.

Carson City – During a League of Women Voters candidate forum on October 16, candidates for Assembly District 40, Republican incumbent Al Kramer and Democrat Autumn Zemke sat at the same table on stage and addressed the gathering and answered audience questions. Hear the audio here.

One attendee question asked, “What additional provisions are needed to close the gender pay gap?”

Autumn Zemke answered first.

“I think passing the Equal Rights Amendment in 2017 was a good start, but I think this is one of those things we do have to legislate,” Zemke said.  “I mean when women are making 80 cents on every dollar a man makes, the market’s not taking care of itself, so I think that we need to do more and we should do more and we will do more.”

Then Al Kramer responded.

“I’m not sure I believe the 80 percent number,” Kramer said to gasps from the audience.  “I’m not sure I believe that there’s … the people I’ve worked with, especially in government has been the same across the board. Lady cops make the same as men.  In the private sector, I see a lot of well paid men, but they’ve gone and gotten their masters degree in engineering, and that’s a high paying field. If you look at the mining industry in Nevada, there’s a lot of women in there, but they are really underrepresented in the mining population, and those are really good jobs in Nevada.  If they went for mining jobs, they’d get them and get that larger paycheck too. Women very often gravitate toward jobs that don’t have as high salaries. (members of the audience booed at this remark) Boo if you want, but the facts speak for themselves,” Kramer said.

Our analysis of US Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows the gender pay gap is a statistical fact.  The factors that create it are much debated, but it’s existence is well documented over time. 

According to the American Association of University Women (AAUW), a women in the US earns 80 cents for every dollar a man earns, and in Nevada that adds up.  The results of an AAUW study show Nevada women employed full-time lose a combined total of nearly $5 billion dollars every year to the wage gap.  We calculated an average of annual median salaries for men and women over the last five years in the United States.  See the graphic above.

Equal pay for equal work?

In US Bureau of Labor Statistics record keeping there are 120 occupations for which data is available for both men and women.   In 2016, women accounted for 44 percent of full-time wage and salary workers, and women’s earnings, as a percentage of men’s, were highest for 4 occupations.  Sewing machine operators; combined food preparation and serving workers; fast food; teacher assistants; and counselors all out-earned their male counterparts.

Data compiled from US Bureau of Labor Statistics - image - Brian Bahoutrh, NCN.
Data compiled from US Bureau of Labor Statistics – image – Brian Bahoutrh, NCN.

The gender pay gap is widest for personal financial advisers followed by insurance sales agents; physicians and surgeons; real estate brokers and sales agents; and securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents.

Data compiled from US Bureau of Labor Statistics - image - Brian Bahoutrh, NCN.
Data compiled from US Bureau of Labor Statistics – image – Brian Bahoutrh, NCN.