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guys (still) kick ass – part 1

About those childless young urban women outearning men

There’s another somewhat misleading labor-market statistic that came out shortly after “The End of Men” was published and has gotten a lot of attention. A 2010 study report by Slingerlands, N.Y.-based consumer-research firm Reach Advisors found that in 2008 (the height of the “mancession”) childless, single, urban women aged 22 to 30 outnumber their male counterparts by about 8 percent.

The big reason for this isn’t really that urban men are being “outcompeted” by women — it’s that married men make MUCH more than single guys. (This is actually “common knowledge among empirical labor economists” — who knew?)

Married, childless women also make more than single childless women, although it’s not as big a gap. Here’s another way of looking at the data … see how the pale colors start out lower than their darker counterparts, and then exceed them as you move right, along the income scale?

(This chart is a little deceptive, though, because the average age in these groups is certainly not the same. Still, illustrative I think).

Even when you control for education and age, ever-married guys make significantly more than never-married dudes. For example, nationally the average 27-year-old guy with a bachelor’s degree (only) in 2008-’10 made $45,976 if he was (or had been) married, $39,604 if he wasn’t. (Ever-married childless 27-year-old women with bachelor’s made just slightly more than their never-married female counterparts, $35,574 vs. $35,122).

This type of wage survey can’t tell, of course, whether the association between wages and marriage is a cause or an effect. Does financial success lead to dating success? Or does marriage and having a supportive spouse lead to job success? Or is a third factor the cause of both? Perhaps certain individuals possess something (drive, maturity, attractiveness, intelligence, charisma, dependability) that allows them to do well in both the employment and marriage markets. Or perhaps, as two German economists posited, married men are less satisfied with their incomes, and therefore work harder. Theories abound, but none seem to be widely accepted — in a 2002 paper for the St. Louis Fed, two researchers said the reason for the gap “might remain an enigma.”

I wanted to dig through the Reach Advisors survey for myself, but it’s not available on their website and a representative told me via email, “At the time of the study, we released our findings to a small number of media outlets but we are no longer circulating it.” Having made a media splash, it seems like the company doesn’t want its work scrutinized … but after digging through the numbers myself quite a bit, I’m quite satisfied that this is what is happening.

Here’s a table I constructed looking at the earnings of 178,750 American Community Survey respondents aged 22-40 representing 7 million people in counties from this list of where single women are said to outearn men the most. As you can see, the never-married childless women in this subset do outearn similar men well into their 30s… but that slight gap is dwarfed by the one between the never-married men and men who are or have ever been married. (Also, note now the salaries for never-married men and women and childless married women stagnate or even decline in their 30s — that’s because there’s less and less people in those subgroups).

Basically, that never-married women outearn never-married men in certain areas is somewhat interesting, but it’s hard to say whether that would still be true if all the married men had been somehow prevented from marrying — or that guys are getting “outcompeted” in the workplace.

Having examined labor-market statistics here, in part two of this post I’ll look at the education statistics used to predict guys are being surpassed.

UPDATED FEB 6, 2012: To use the most-recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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