Americans hear a lot about the wage gap, and how women are paid 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Countless studies and commentaries have pointed out how misleading this statistic is. It doesn’t compare two similarly situated coworkers, but just working men and women overall, while failing to account for numerous factors that impact how much someone earns, such as their industry and years of experience. Overall, full-time working men work longer hours and often in worse conditions (suffering the overwhelming majority of workplace injuries and fatalities) than women do, which is one of the reasons they end up earning more.
AEI’s Mark Perry highlights another gap that undoubtedly contributes to the discrepancy in earnings. He calls it the “gender commute time gap,” or the difference between how much time men and women spend traveling to their jobs. On average, American men spend 23 percent longer commuting than women do, which adds up to a lot of lost leisure and lost life each year.
Why do men commute more? Part of the reason is likely that they place a higher priority in maximizing income, so are willing to travel farther to a job that pays more, while women would rather commute less and will accept lower pay in exchange for a shorter commute.
I’m sure radical feminists can turn this around as more evidence of sexism against women: Women are more tied to the home, they’ll say, and can’t commute as much because of the burdens of children and family. We can endlessly debate the extent to which women and men assume different roles in society because of nature or nurture, and how much of a role sexism plays in leading to these outcomes. However, the decisions made by individuals on where and how much to work play a big role in how much someone earns. This commuter gap is an important missing piece in understanding the real causes of the “wage gap” statistic, which fails to compare two similarly situated workers, and therefore tells us nothing about sexism’s role in the workplace.