Dr. Mark Perry, an economist at the University of Michigan calculates ‘Equal Occupational Fatality Day‘ each year. Yesterday was the latest release of the next ‘Equal Occupational Fatality Day’. Perry summarizes his data in the chart to the left (note: click twice to enlarge) from his blog and his commentary follows.

Every year the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) publicizes its “Equal Pay Day” to bring public attention to the gender pay gap. “Equal Pay Day” this year fell on April 17, and represents how far into 2012 the average woman had to continue working to earn the same income that the average man earned last year.  Inspired by Equal Pay Day, I introduced “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” in 2010 to bring public attention to the huge gender disparity in work-related deaths every year in the United States.  “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” tells us how many years into the future women would have to work before they would experience the same number of occupational fatalities that occurred in the previous year for men.

Last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released new data on workplace fatalities for 2011, and a new “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” can now be calculated.  As in previous years, the chart above shows the significant gender disparity in workplace fatalities in 2011: 4,234 men died on the job (92 percent of the total) compared to only 375 women (8 percent of the total). The “gender occupational fatality gap” in 2011 was considerable—more than 11 men died on the job for every woman who died while working.

Based on the new BLS data, the next “Equal Occupational Fatality Day” will occur almost ten years from now—on April 17, 2022. That date symbolizes how far into the future women will be able to contine working before they experience the same loss of life that men experienced in 2011 from work-related deaths.  Because women tend to work in safer occupations than men on average, they have the advantage of being able to work for about a decade longer than men before they experience the same number of male occupational fatalities in a single year.

Economic theory tells us that the “gender occupational fatality gap” explains part of the “gender pay gap” because a disproportionate number of men work in higher-risk, but higher-paid occupations like coal mining (almost 100 percent male), fire fighters (95 percent male), police officers (88 percent male), correctional officers (72 percent male), farming, fishing, and forestry (78 percent male), and construction (98 percent male); BLS data here.  On the other hand, a disproportionate number of women work in relatively low-risk industries, often with lower pay to partially compensate for the safer, more comfortable indoor office environments in occupations like office and administrative support (73 percent female), education, training, and library occupations (74 percent female), and healthcare (74 percent female).  The higher concentrations of men in riskier occupations with greater occurrences of workplace injuries and fatalities suggest that more men than women are willing to expose themselves to work-related injury or death in exchange for higher wages.  In contrast, women more than men prefer lower risk occupations with greater workplace safety, and are frequently willing to accept lower wages for the reduced probability of work-related injury or death.

Bottom Line: Groups like the NCPE use “Equal Pay Day” to promote a goal of perfect gender pay equity, probably not realizing that they are simultaneously advocating an increase in the number of women working in higher-paying, but higher-risk occupations like fire-fighting, construction, and mining.  The reality is that a reduction in the gender pay gap would come at a huge cost: several thousand more women will be killed each year working in dangerous occupations.

Here’s a question for the NCPE: Closing the “gender pay gap” could only be achieved by closing the “occupational fatality gap.”  Would achieving the goal of pay equity really be worth the loss of life for thousands of additional women each year who would die in work-related accidents?


  • http://www.facebook.com/people/William-Kone/100001416067374 William Kone

    I’ve seen reports that the Military underpays women at $0.60 to every dollar a man earns. Now keep in mind that the Military pays you based on the number of years you have been in and your rank. That is it. No gender bias, women do not have a different pay chart than men.

    So how do they get away with saying Military women are paid less? They massage the numbers. You take the average pay of ALL men in the military and compare that to the average pay of ALL women. And Ta-Da, you have women earning 40% less then men.

    Because their are fewer women who stay in the military for 20+ years, they have fewer higher ranking members as a percentage of all females. Higher rank means high pay.

    So the solution was that the law needed to be passed that required equal pay for women…by paying women more then men for the same rank/years.

  • Steve M.

    This is a fair argument agains “perfect pay equity” (i.e. making average pay of women perfectly equal to average pay of men, across the entire workforce). However, the festering argument below is about equal pay for equal work — and I’m guessing that if you isolate any one particular “high risk” occupation, the percentage of female deaths will be roughly equivalent to the percentage of female employees in that occupation.
    I for one (and maybe I’m alone among the other liberals that frequent PD) do not think equal pay should in any way be expected across the economy — I think that is stupid and unworkable. I do think women should not be unfairly paid less for doing the same job, however, as I said below, a government mandate for “equal pay for equal work” is like performing surgery with a chainsaw — but I’m not sure what the scalpel is yet.

    • Raúl Ramírez

      Most of us likely agree with you on equal work. But the problems come when this “women make 70-80% what men make” number is bandied about. It isn’t 70-80% of pay comparing similar jobs. This is a number taken from aggregate pay divided by total workers.

      The data in those makes it clear that men and women CHOOSE jobs that are different and pay differently.

      When workers are compared in similar jobs and similar life circumstances, pay is relatively equal. Otherwise, capitalists, otherwise derided as “greedy” by liberals, would hire all women for less and fire all the men.

      I don’t believe there can be the “scalpel” you’re looking for because there is rarely such a thing as an “equal job”. Most have differences from person to person, even with the same job title. And there certainly is no such thing as an equal employee, as each individual is unique in their work ethic, work background, and educational experience. You simply can’t measure an “equal job”.

      • Steve M.

        Three points on this:
        1.) While the $0.77 on the dollar number may be comparing only full-time, working adults at the aggregate (ignoring occupational differences) … the data out there seems to support that even for the same or similar jobs, women are systemically paid less. See this article and its links. It includes studies of specific jobs. I think the one on lawyers is particularly enlightening as it is a study of beginning lawyers, before performance in the workplace could be considered.
        2.) Saying that men and women choose jobs that pay differently (i.e. women choose jobs that pay less than jobs men choose) is begging the question a bit. It assumes that these jobs have salary ranges pre-determined by some all-powerful salary range maker — and that jobs that are traditionally held by women aren’t paid less BECAUSE they are traditiaonally and disproportionately held by women. While Dr. Perry’s example of workplace fatalities may enlighten this issue somewhat — I think it’s worth asking why some jobs pay more than others. I don’t see too many more lawyers dying in the workplace than teachers.
        3.) Maybe you are right that there is no such thing as an “equal job” or “equal employee” but the data seems to indicate that the bias is systemic — I think that “no job is equal” works to a certain extent, it calls attention to the fact that flat out “wage equality laws” don’t work — but it ignores the nearly indisputable fact that in the US women are systemactically paid less then men for one reason or another and I think that’s an issue worth contributing some resources toward solving.

        • Anonymous

          It has been explained many times. Yes the woman may receive less pay but they are not getting a lower wage.

        • Raúl Ramírez

          On point 2, jobs pay what they are worth. If an employer can’t attract enough employees, it increases the starting wage. That’s a simple concept most of us understand and it explains why some jobs pay more than others. Seriously, for the same money, nearly everyone would choose administrative support, education, training, and library occupations over coal mining, fire fighter,
          police officer, correctional officer, farming, fishing, forestry, and

          On point three, there really isn’t much evidence of as you say “US women are systemactically paid less then men,” as we have gone over and over again about.

          Something being a popular rallying cry doesn’t necessarily make it true.