INDIANAPOLIS  — I didn’t title this column “Women at Work” because it suggests only women who are employed are working. At the same time, I don’t do what the Bureau of the Census has done in a recent graphic release: Provide you with only the most recent differentials between the earnings of men and women.
Truth requires context. And the truth is, as it has been for ages, women earn less than men. In 2018, the most recent year available, the median earnings of women employed in all types of jobs, full-time, year-round, was 81.2% of men with the same employment profile. This figure is the most recent measure of the economic disparity between men and women employees.

What we aren’t told is about a  two-point improvement in the relative earnings of women from 79.2% in the preceding five years. Nor do we see the deterioration of the relative earnings of African-American and Hispanic women vis-à-vis men of the same description. Likewise, we don’t discover the gains, relative to men, that women made, between 2013 and 2018, in professional, scientific, technical services plus manufacturing.

The data show many conflicting tendencies. But then, what we don’t know won’t confuse us about reality. That’s why press releases are more likely to be covered by sensation seekers than analytical reports.

What’s behind these differentials? Part of the answer may lie deep in another chapter of the yet-to-be-written analysis, differential commuting patterns of men and women. Where are men and women employed? The American Community Survey for 2018 reports, 5.7% of women work at home, compared to a flat 5% of men. Women tend to live closer to their workplace than men; travel time to work for 64% of women is fewer than 30 minutes, while 58% of men enjoy a commute of less than a half an hour.

In addition, 70% of American men work in the county in which they live, but women have a greater tendency (75%) to work in their county of residence. Correspondingly, 33% of men leave for work between midnight and 7 a.m. The figure for women is 26%.

Overwhelmingly, men (85.5%) and women (80%) travel by car, truck or van. But women (23.3%) carpool or take public transit, while a somewhat smaller portion of men (22.5%) are joined by others commuting. These differences may be related to the finding that 4.4% of women have no vehicle available at home to get to work; for men the figure is 4.1%.

Together, all these small differences (time, distance, place of work, and mode of transit) may contribute to diminished job opportunities for women and the earnings differential so often observed. Or is it the other way around? As they say in professional journals, “These matters require further investigation.” Won’t somebody give me a grant? 
Mr. Marcus is an economist. Reach him at