Evidence The Gender Wage Gap Starts Waaay Young

by Emma Cueto

When does the gender pay gap begin? Once young people graduate from college and accept that first position? Or is it happening already in the part time jobs kids hold during high school and college? Well, it seems that the gender pay gap may start all the way back in our childhood, when boys are more likely to get allowance than girls.

And before anybody starts trying to come up with whatever the six-year-old equivalent of the women-just-self-select-into-lower-paying-fields-and-also-don't-work-as-hard-and-also-babies argument is, it should also be noted that boys don't do more work around the house than girls. Despite the fact that girls do as much as two more hours of housework per week than boys, boys are 15 percent more likely to get an allowance, and when they do, they often get more money than their female counterparts.

And even though the difference of a few dollars here or there might not seem like a big deal, this stuff matters — and not just because a few dollars is a big sum of money for a kid. It matters because chores and allowance are the first opportunities kids have to gain an appreciation of what their work is worth and how work is valued. Kids don't even have to directly compare their allowances for their perceptions of the value of their work to become skewed. This is how we end up with women only making only 77 to 93 cents on a man's dollar (depending who you ask).

Plus there's the fact that boys are funneled into more lucrative chores like lawn-mowing rather than chores like cleaning — or put another way, parents place more value on work traditionally seen as male and less value on work traditionally seen as female. Sound familiar? It's almost like we live in a sexist society where so called "feminine" things are belittled.

So really it's no wonder that women are more likely to accept lower salaries and less likely to ask for a raise — from the time we are in elementary school, we're already getting the impression that our work isn't as valuable. And the implications of this can go far beyond just our earning capacity, or our perceptions about the value of a dollar. In a capitalist economy where a person's societal value is supposedly reflected by the amount of money they earn, this kind of gender gap in our formative years is a big deal. Want to know why women lack confidence? Maybe it's partly due to the fact our work has been devalued since before we even reached double-digit ages.

The sucky thing is that there really isn't anything you can do to fix this other than try to make parents critically evaluate their own allowance practices. I mean, what are we going to do, enact an executive order about allowance? But it's little things like this, added up, that can make a big difference over the course of a life time. But maybe if we start catching this stuff early, things actually will start to change.