University of Illinois at Chicago

Myth, Math and the Money: Media Framing of the U.S. Gender Wage Gap debate from 1980-2014

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posted on 2017-02-17, 00:00 authored by Sabrina Kim Pasztor
This study seeks to ascertain the possible correlational role media framing plays in public discourse, public opinion, and policy formation related to the contemporary U.S. gender wage gap issue. I consider the linkages between salience of media messages, shifts in public opinion (attitudes) surrounding this issue, and partisanship in formulating public policy (behaviors). Through content analysis, I systematically analyze the predominant media frames on the gender wage gap in N=324 news articles from six mainstream media sources of varying ideological affiliation (conservative, liberal, centrist), including three major print (newspaper – The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and USA Today) and three electronic (television – CNN, NBC, Fox) news broadcast transcripts about the gender wage gap between January 1, 1980 – April 30, 2014. Employing Chong and Druckman’s (2006) media framing theory, I identify nine frames (including economic, social, and political frames), and correlate these with and around ‘significant events’ (legislative, policy reform) changes in public opinion. A clearer understanding of how media shapes messages on this issue has potential implications for developing public discourse towards reducing gender inequality, within the broader context of class inequities. Findings show: 1) media messaging is remarkably consistent regardless of news source; 2) media framing shows overall support for eliminating the gender wage gap with a preponderance of “pro” (eliminate the inequity) versus “con” arguments; 3) unless there is what I term a “perfect storm”, equating to a confluence of events (legislative discourse at the Congressional level, proposed or pending executive action, and an increase in media coverage and heightened public awareness surrounding these events), the impact of significant milestones is substantially reduced, occurring in only five of seventeen instances; and 4) of the nine frames identified and analyzed, Morality and Ethics as a frame is the key driver to influence ideological change towards perceiving men and women as equal ‘human beings’, and potentially shift both media framing from a demand-side to supply-side rhetoric that supports this transformation to the betterment of society.



Rojecki, Andrew


Rojecki, Andrew



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Committee Member

Papacharissi, Zizi Lind, Rebecca Risman, Barbara Bielby, William

Submitted date

December 2016

Issue date


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