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The Gender Pay Gap

Learn more about gender pay gap and how to measure it.

In this video, professor Michael Spagat interviews Dr. Tanya Wilson about gender pay gap.

Tanya Wilson is a Lecturer in Economics at the Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow. She is the recipient of the 2016 Royal Economic Society Prize, and was awarded the Sir Alec Cairncross Prize from the Scottish Economic Society in 2017. Her research interests are in the economics of labour markets and the economics of the family. Tanya has contributed reports to recent Scottish Parliamentary inquiries on the Gender Pay Gap in Scotland, and Scotland’s Economic Performance as well as the Royal Society of Edinburgh inquiry on women in STEM – Tapping all our Talents 2018.

Many researchers blithely assume that they accurately measure exactly what they are trying to measure. But in reality, they often measure something else and don’t know it.

Tanya makes an important point. There are two commonly used ways to measure averages that can lead to very different answers. I’ll expand on this point and you can see still more detail by consulting this interesting website.

Here are 9 numbers:

2, 7, 10, 36, 4, 7, 8, 6, 1

The mean of these numbers is 9 which is calculated as:

(2+7+10+36+4+7+8+6+1) / 9

The median is 7 which we get by lining the numbers up in order and picking out the one in the middle:

1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 7, 8, 10, 36

The number 7 appears in position 5 out of 9.

(A very poor version of) Jeff Bezos would correspond to the 36 in this list of numbers. If we turn that 36 into a 360 the median will not change but the mean will go way up.

You might enjoy this take on the Distracted Boyfriend meme

Survival Statistics Extra

Here is part 2 of this interview just for those of you with a particular interest in gender pay equality. It’s very interesting but it doesn’t fit all that well with the flow of the course so I’ve turned it into a bonus item.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.


Why is mean income at the national level pretty much useless for understanding poverty dynamics? Is median income much better?

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Survival Statistics: Secrets for Demystifying Numbers

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