Italicized links open a new window to an external site

Click here to display our home page

Lesson Ideas
Main Events

How Much Do They Make?

All students with whom I've worked have enjoyed thinking about and discussing money.  This activity gives them a chance to identify and test the truth of some of their perceptions about jobs and earnings.  It is also a good introduction to data tables, as well as a way to practice arithmetic skills, and to develop small group discussion and consensus building skills.  You could also use the assignments to show your students how to use and build electronic spreadsheets.  To do that, consider having them convert the assignment sheets to spreadsheets.  Once they've created electronic sheets that match the handouts, have them create formulas to calculate the requested results.  They could then use these files to process results for additional occupations that you'll find or have them research in the government's current data.

As the concept of averaging appears more than once below, you might want to introduce it to your students before you begin work here.  You might also want to look at a related suggestion - How Much Is An Education Worth?

Move to 

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Wrapping Up Resources
  1. Before you start, make copies of each of the following you plan to use with your students.  I selected jobs with which I thought my students would have some familiarity.  Should you want substitutes for one or more of the jobs I selected, the complete list tracked by the government (as well as the most recent median earnings for each) is available at http://www.bls.gov/cps/#weekearn (#39 shows earnings data by detailed occupation and sex; while #37 shows its data broken down by race and gender).

These handouts use 1999 data.  If you want, save them to disk then use your word processor to update them with either 2000 data, 2001 data, 2002 data, 2003 data or 2008 data.

  1. Day 1
  1. Warm up
  1. Select one of the job titles from the income quiz.
  2. Write it on the board, or ask your students to write it down on a sheet of paper.
  3. Let your students explain what a person who holds this job does.  Allow this discussion to continue until the job is clearly and correctly defined, and all students understand the definition.
  4. Lead a discussion where you attempt to get your class to reach a consensus on how much the "average" worker in the chosen job earns in one year.
  1. Distribute the income quiz.
  2. Ask students to write in the amount the federal government shows the "average" worker in the warm up occupation earned.  You'll find that number on the income quiz answers.
  3. Unless your students' consensus answer was correct, discuss why it might have been either high or low.
  4. Give your students 5 minutes to fill in their best guesses for the remaining jobs.  Explain that they will have an opportunity to discuss their work in groups shortly, but for now you want them to work quietly and thoughtfully on their own.
  5. Once the 5 minutes is up, divide the class into groups of 4 or 5.  Announce that it is the job of each group to attempt to reach a consensus on a number for each job on the list.  Allow them to rearrange their seats or move to areas where they can talk without disturbing each other.  If you choose not to appoint a chair for each group, ask the students to do so as their first task once they've assembled.
  6. Allow the groups at least 15 minutes to complete their tasks.  Move among them, observing their work, but not participating.
  7. Reconvene the class at the end of the 15 minute period.
  8. Going down the list one job at a time, have one person from each group report the number it decided on for the selected job, and its reasons for doing so.  For any job where the groups are not in relative agreement, attempt to reach a class consensus.
  9. Read your students the government statistics from the income quiz answers.
  10. If time permits, discuss why any class consensus answers might have been too high or low.
  11. Ask your students to bring their lists to the next class.

  1. Day 2
  1. Ask your students to take out the list of jobs and earnings with which they worked in the last class.
  2. Explain that the average earnings listed are overall averages, and that the averages for men and women in each occupation are usually different.  Go on to say that, in fact, in 1999 statistics showed only one job where men's and women's averages were the same.  Lead a discussion to see if your class can reach a consensus on which it might be.
  3. When the discussion is over, you can reveal that government statistics show that, in 1999, male and female bartenders were paid equally.
  4. Distribute a copy of the pay equity quiz to each member of the class.
  5. Ask them to copy the overall bartender number to the average male and female bartender boxes.
  6. Point out that the averages on the sheet are derived from the median weekly earnings of full time wage and salary workers.  If they do not know the difference, you might want to discuss the distinction between median and mean averages at this point.  You can then go on to explain that they will be working with median averages throughout this unit.
  7. Instruct them to take 5 minutes to fill in the male and female boxes for the remaining jobs with their best estimates.  Explain that they will have an opportunity to discuss their work in groups shortly, but for now you want them to work quietly and thoughtfully on their own.
  8. Once the 5 minutes is up, divide the class into groups of 4 or 5.  Announce that it is the job of each group to attempt to reach a consensus on male and female numbers for each job on the list.  Allow them to rearrange their seats or move to areas where they can talk without disturbing each other.  If you choose not to appoint a chair for each group, ask the students to do so as their first task once they've assembled.
  9. Allow the groups at least 15 minutes to complete their tasks.  Move among them, observing their work, but not participating.
  10. Reconvene the class at the end of the 15 minute period.
  11. Going down the list one job at a time, have one person from each group report the numbers it decided on for the selected job, and its reasons for doing so.  For any job where the groups are not in relative agreement, attempt to reach a class consensus.
  12. Read your students the government statistics from the pay equity quiz answers, and have them note them on their sheets.
  13. Questions you might want to pose and discuss about the data table they've just created.
  1. Are there any jobs on the list where women, on average, make more than men?
  2. In what listed job do women earn the most?  The least?
  3. In what listed job do men earn the most?  The least?
  4. Aside from bartending, in what listed job do women's earnings come closest to men's?  In what are they farthest?
  5. Which of the following two statements is truer?  What is the difference between them?

A woman never makes more than a comparably employed man.

A woman usually makes less than a comparably employed man.

  1. Ask your students to start thinking about why it appears that women workers in the U.S. make less than men.  You can tell them that you'll pose this question again, so you want them to continue thinking about it as they work on their next assignment. 
  2. Returning to the data for bartenders, you might want to report that in 2000, female bartenders again earned less than there male counterparts (as they had on average in the years before 1999).  The 2000 statistics show female bartenders earning 90.8% of male earnings.  This raises the question of what happened in 1999.  I don't know.  It could have been a statistical fluke, or an error (on the government's part) in preparing or printing its data table.  But for what it's worth, bartending for two years running was one of the few occupations tracked by the government where women's earnings were reportedly more than 90% of men's.
  3. Distribute a copy of the pay equity assignment you choose to use to each member of your class.  If you give your students one of the less work assignments, assign each a specific occupation with which to work.  Have them write it on their sheets before they leave.
  1. Review the instructions from the sheet that explain how one calculates either the percentage of men's earnings made by women or the difference between the two.  Point out that the answer for those occupations where one average is N/A, will be N/A, as one needs two numbers to complete the calculation.  If your students are unfamiliar with data tables, take this opportunity to explain row and column headers, how one chooses row and column headers of interest, and how one finds information at the intersection of a chosen row and column.
  2. Ask your students to apply the formula from the instructions on their sheets to the numbers on the first line of the table (all occupations).
  3. Give them a couple of minutes to work, then see if you can reach a class consensus on the answer.
  4. Compare the consensus answer to the correct one (76.54% or $7,540).  If your students failed to calculate or understand the correct answer, review the procedure so they can see what error(s) they made.

  1. Day 3
  1. Review the answers your students calculated on the pay equity assignment you had them use.  If you had each student calculate all answers, attempt to reach a class consensus on each answer before reporting the correct response to the class.  If you used the less work version, have those assigned a specific occupation report their result before allowing the class as a whole to attempt a consensus answer.  Have students write out the correct answers on their sheets.
  2. Questions you might want to pose and discuss about the data table they've just completed.
  1. For how many occupations did the unavailability of one gender's earnings make it impossible to calculate an answer?
  2. For each of those occupations, look at the overall average and the available gender average.  Does it appear that women earned more or less than the overall average in these jobs?  How can you tell?
  1. Have your students brainstorm a list of the possible reasons for differences in pay such as those shown on the list.  Let them know that they'll come back to this list later, so they should keep it handy.  If you want your students to compare their ideas with those presented in the pay equity articles linked below, assign one or more of them for reading, report and discussion.  Alternately, review the articles yourself and report the ideas you find to the class.
  2. Explain that the numbers of men and women are not necessarily equal in the workforce, or in a given occupation.
  3. Ask your students whether they believe there are more male or female workers in the U.S.  Lead a discussion where you try to reach a consensus answer.  
  4. Compare your class' consensus answer with what I found in the government statistics.  In 1999 there were 118,691,000 full and part time wage and salary workers in the U.S., aged 16 and over.  Of these, 56,939,000 (47.97%) were women.  They made up 43.5% of the full time workers, and 68.8% of the part time labor force.  82.25% of all workers were full time.  If you are looking for problems to give your students practice with percentages, have them calculate the number of women in the full and part time labor forces using only these numbers.

  1. Day 4
  1. Distribute a copy of the women's work force quiz to each student in your class.
  2. Give your students 5 minutes to fill in their best guesses.  Explain that they will have an opportunity to discuss their work in groups shortly, but for now you want them to work quietly and thoughtfully on their own.
  3. Once the 5 minutes is up, divide the class into groups of 4 or 5.  Announce that it is the job of each group to attempt to reach a consensus on a + or - for each job on the list.  Allow them to rearrange their seats or move to areas where they can talk without disturbing each other.  If you choose not to appoint a chair for each group, ask the students to do so as their first task once they've assembled.
  4. Allow the groups at least 15 minutes to complete their tasks.  Move among them, observing their work, but not participating.
  5. Reconvene the class at the end of the 15 minute period.
  6. Going down the list one job at a time, have one person from each group report its answer for the selected job, and its reasons for choosing it.  For any job where the groups are not in relative agreement, attempt to reach a class consensus.
  7. Explain that the students will be able to calculate the correct responses as part of tonight's assignment.
  8. Distribute and review the instructions for the version of the women's work force assignment you choose to use with your students.  If they are unable to calculate percentages, have them calculate only the number of male workers in each job.  If you choose the less work assignment, be sure to assign each student in the class one of the occupations at the time you distribute them.

  1. Day 5
  1. Review the answers to the women's work force assignment.  If you had each student calculate all answers, attempt to reach a class consensus on each answer before reporting the correct response to the class.  If you used the less work version, have those assigned a specific occupation report their result before allowing the class as a whole to attempt a consensus answer.
  2. Have your students compare the correct results on the assignment with their consensus answers on the introductory quiz.  Identify where the class' perceptions had been correct and incorrect.  Discuss why they might have been right where they were right, and wrong where they were wrong.
  3. Questions you might want to pose and discuss.
  1. Is there any apparent relationship between the percentage of women in an occupation and their earnings?  In other words, do job categories filled mostly by women pay less?
  2. People who claim there is no discrimination against women in pay sometimes argue that the statistics only look biased because women have not been in the work force as long as men.  They say that men have worked longer and therefore make more.  Looking at the job categories that have historically been filled overwhelmingly by women (librarians and secretaries), one might expect the opposite to be true.  Do the statistics bear this out?

  1. Wrapping Up
  1. Explain that in the next class session, you will test students on their ability to calculate pay equity numbers.
  2. To help them prepare, distribute and review the test prep handout.
  3. When you are ready to test, use the test handout or prepare your own.


Resources to extend this activity

Move to

the top of this page pay equity articles suggestions for action more salary sites books of note other activities

Additional Statistical Resources

Here you can also see the racial wage gap.  On average, Whites earn more than Blacks who earn more than Hispanics.  Within each group, men earn more, on average, than women.  Native Americans are not listed (probably because of their small numbers in our population), but I believe they earn least of all.

Even when you look at people grouped by educational attainment, men on average make more than women.

In addition to the Employment and Earnings statistics on which the handouts in this activity are based, the Bureau of Labor Statistics also produces the Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates.  The latter is generated from the OES (Occupational Employment Statistics, an employer survey); while the former comes from the CPS (Current Population Survey of U.S. households).  The CPS provides more job income details, thus enabling gender and race comparisons not available from the OES; but it also contains many fewer job categories.  It is also limited to fulltime workers, while the OES includes both full and part timers.  However, the two do provide contrasting viewpoints - we see wages and numbers of employed through the employers' eyes in the OES, and through those of employees in the CPS.  This makes for some interesting discrepancies in the results (where they appear to be comparable); discrepancies that surprised me, but show that even with hard numbers, perspective counts as does stressing process over answersThis table shows comparable categories from the two 1999 reports.

Pay equity is a contentious issue Here are links to samples from the fray.

Proponents

Wage Gap Widens, The New York Times (January 24, 2002 - free registration required)

Why Have Equal Pay Laws Not Eliminated the Wage Gap?  This site also has sections showing the history of the wage gap and possible reasons for it.

Taking Aim at Male/Female Wage Gap, The Christian Science Monitor (1-31-00)

Fair Pay Is Fair Play, The Christian Science Monitor (5-10-00)

Explaining Trends in the Gender Wage Gap, a report by The White House Council of Economic Advisors (June 1998).

Men in the Life Sciences earn, on average, one-third more than women (report on the 2001 AAAS salary survey) 

Here is the link to another report on the survey

For links to the complete report, see http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/feature/salsurvey/salarysurvey.htm

Opponents

The Equality Equation by Herbert Stein in Slate.com (4-22-99)

Equal Pay/Comparable Worth: Sacrificing Equal Opportunity

The Facts About Pay Equity from The Employment Policy Foundation (March 1999)

Are Women Being Victimized by the Market? (no longer available)

May the Best Man (Oops, Person) Win

Both Sides Now

The Wage Gap: Pay Equity Debate Creates Huge Political Divide by Patricia Edmonds, Womenconnect.com

Voxcap.com looks at Pay Equity (preserved for posterity by the Internet Archive)

resources menu

Suggestions for action

If you conclude that the wage gap is real, and want to identify things you can do to close it, look at

the proposed Paycheck Fairness Act and the proposed Fair Pay Act

Strategies for Achieving Equal Pay, the AFL-CIO

Action Alert: Supporting a Strong Pay Equity Bill, the National Organization for Women (NOW)

The U.S. Department of Labor

Women's Bureau

Women's Bureau Fair Play Clearinghouse (preserved for posterity by the Internet Archive after being removed during the G. W. Bush administration)

Worth More Than We Earn: Fair Pay for Working Women

Earnings Differences Between Men and Women - 2000 (preserved for posterity by the Internet Archive after being removed during the G. W. Bush administration)

10 Steps to an Equal Pay Self-audit for Employers (preserved for posterity by the Internet Archive after being removed during the G. W. Bush administration)

Working Women's Equal Pay Checklist (preserved for posterity by the Internet Archive after being removed during the G. W. Bush administration)

resources menu

More web sites dealing with pay information and issues

Working Woman's 21st Annual Salary Survey (July 2000) - no longer available

JobStar's links to 300+ salary surveys

Work Index' links to salary statistics

CEO paywatch

This AFL-CIO site offers an ongoing look at the widening gap between the pay earned by corporate workers and the heads of the businesses for which they work.  It is definitely eye-opening.

United for a Fair Economy

Each year, UFE publishes Executive Excess.  This report tracks executive pay trends.  Like the AFL-CIO's CEO paywatch, it is an eye-opener.

Inequality.org's look at the widening wealth gap in the U.S.

Among the many things you'll learn at this site is that in 2004 10% of the U.S. population owned 71.2% of the nation's wealth; while the remaining 90% owned just 28.7%. Even more astonishing, 1% owned 34.3% of the nation's wealth.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Rising Tides, Leaky Boats: Plugging America's Wage Gap

The Economic Policy Institute maintains a good set of resources on inequality and poverty.

resources menu

Books on earnings and gender equity in the U.S.

Money: Who Has How Much and Why by Andrew Hacker (Simon and Schuster)

If you want more statistics about the sorts of issues raised on this page, this is the book for you.  Hacker, a Political Scientist at Queen's College, is an engaging writer.

Sex and Power by Susan Estrich (Riverhead Books)

Susan Estrich is well qualified to explore gender equity issues, and she does so with a vengeance in this marvelous book.  Here is an excerpt.

Getting Even: Why Women Don't Get Paid Like Men by Evelyn Murphy

resources menu

Other Classroomtools.com activities that allow students to work with numbers

Interesting numbers

Putting Time in Perspective

Taxes Made EZ

those containing data tables with which you might want your students to work

Warm-up activities

School Safety Facts

What is the most common crime committed in the U.S.?

When a person dies at the hands of a gunman, who most often pulls the trigger?

How much is an education worth?

Main Events

Media use survey from Propaganda in the classroom

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

The world in a room

 

resources menu


return to the Main Events page

return to the Lesson Ideas page

copyright 2000-2015 classroomtools.com. All Rights Reserved.
original web posting: Wednesday, July 12, 2000
last modified: Sunday, February 22, 2015