12th Grade Economics New York

Gender Wage Gap

This twelfth grade annotated inquiry leads students through an investigation of a hotly debated issue in the United States: the gender wage gap.  The compelling question “What should we do about the gender wage gap?” asks students to grapple not only with how to quantify and interpret the gap but also to consider ways of addressing the problem. Throughout the inquiry, students consider the degree to which economic inequality reflects social, political, or economic injustices or whether it simply reflects individual choices and the role the government should play in decreasing income inequality. Although this inquiry is rooted in a question about economics, no social issue is fully understood without examining a range of economic, historical, geographic, and political concepts in order to craft a full-bodied, evidence-based argument. This inquiry looks at the complexity of the gender wage gap issue through all four social studies disciplines. Students examine the structural factors that influence women’s choices as well as historical (e.g., Equal Pay Act of 1963) and pending (e.g., Paycheck Fairness Act) legislative efforts. Ultimately, students must find a way to measure the gender wage gap, determine if it is an issue worth addressing, and, if so, how to best address it, including private and public sector solutions.


Compelling Question:

What Should Be Done about the Gender Wage Gap?

Staging the Question:

Investigate the reasons behind the declaration of Equal Pay Day and the arguments for why it should or should not exist.

Supporting Question What are the challenges in accurately calculating the gender wage gap?

Formative Task List the challenges of accurately calculating the gender wage gap.

Sources Source A: Explaining the Gender Wage Gap (excerpt)
Source B: Image bank: Graphs and charts depicting the gender wage gap


Supporting Question Why has the gender wage gap changed over time?

Formative Task Write a paragraph that explains why the gender wage gap has narrowed but not disappeared.

Sources Source A: “Gender Earnings Ratio, 1955-2013, Full-Time Workers” graph
Source B: “The Gender Pay Gap: Have Women Gone as Far as They Can?” (excerpt)
Source C: “The Quiet Revolution That Transformed Women’s Employment, Education, and Family” (excerpt)


Supporting Question Where is the gender wage gap the most pronounced?

Formative Task Using a graphic organizer, summarize data and describe where the gender wage gap is most pronounced at the local, state, and national levels.

Sources Source A: Image bank: Graphs showing demographic data on the gender wage gap
Source B: “Women’s Pay as a Percentage of Men’s Pay” chart
Source C: Table showing median earnings of men and women based on New York congressional districts


Supporting Question Is there a political solution to the gender wage gap?

Formative Task Write a claim supported with evidence that explains whether or not there is a political solution to the wage gap.

Sources Source A: “Should the Senate Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act?”
Source B: “Higher State Minimum Wages Promote Fair Pay for Women”

Summative Performance Task

Argument: What should be done about the gender wage gap? Construct an argument (e.g., detailed outline, poster, essay) that addresses the compelling question using specific claims and relevant evidence and information from contemporary sources.
Extension: Write an op-ed for a local or national newspaper stating an argument for what should be done about the gender wage gap and address economic, historical, geographic, and political factors that have informed the argument.

Taking Informed Action

Understand: Accomplished through Formative Tasks 1, 2, and 3
Assess: Accomplished through Formative Tasks 4
Act: Accomplished through the Summative Extension