Warren Farrell’s Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth Behind the Pay Gap – and What Women Can Do About It is ingeniously packaged as a self-help book for women. Farrell’s main finding is that women make less than men because women trade work that pays less for lives that are more balanced, have more time for children, and last longer. Men – most especially married fathers -- work longer, harder, and in more difficult jobs even though that means they see less of their children and die younger. In fact, Farrell argues, when we really compare apples and apples, women earn at least the same as men, and probably more.
The pay gap could, in principle, disappear if tens of millions of women were willing to take rough jobs which required sacrificing their families. Since this is unlikely to happen short of a draconian command economy, the gap will remain. This gap in group earnings is not a bad thing if individual men and women are free to make other arrangements that serve their families as well.
Farrell offers 25 things that women could do to earn more money. For example, women could chose fields in the hard sciences as much as they did in the arts. Less educated women could earn more if they were as willing to work “in the heat and the sleet” as they are “indoors and neat.” Many women, of course, can and do choose such jobs. But it defies what we know about women and men in general to think that hundreds of millions of working men and women in this country would be equally likely to choose the same way.
The main point underlying all of the differences in work choices that Farrell cites is that parents arrange their lives to serve their kids. Women tend to arrange their work so they can be with their children more. Men tend to arrange their work so they can provide for their children (and wives) more. We know this because childless men and women tend to be nearly equal in their work, midway between the averages for mothers and fathers.
Ultimately, men as a group earn more because married fathers are more productive at work than any other group. Men earn more despite the fact that single, childless men earn less than most women.