Wage Gap Debunked by Feminist OrganizationWritten by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Remember the Wage Gap? It’s that discriminatory undervaluing of women’s work compared to men’s that doggedly persists through good times and bad, across all demographic and employment categories. You remember the Wage Gap we’ve been hearing about for decades. Well, never mind.
As the American Enterprise Institute’s Christina Hoff Sommers pointed out in this Huffington Post article, feminists, in the form of the American Association of University Women have finally admitted what the rest of us have known for decades. There’s a wage gap between men and women alright, but it has little-to-nothing to do with workplace discrimination against women. In fact, it has everything to do with women’s choices about how to spend their time, choices that in many ways look a lot more balanced than men’s.
Now, I say that the AAUW has admitted that a wage gap due to anti-female discrimination has turned out to be a figment of feminists’ imagination. That’s not quite true. In fact, the AAUW’s study “Graduating to a Pay Gap” bends heaven and earth to report the opposite. Its conceit is that, within a year of graduation from college, equally qualified women working the same jobs as men earn less than those men. But that’s just the usual feminist press release version of the study. As Sommers correctly instructs, “bypass the verbal sleights of hand and take a hard look at the numbers.”
When you do, you discover that the AAUW’s results look strikingly like those of countless other studies over the years. The gender gap in wages that feminists have always touted reflects nothing but average earnings of men and women working full-time. Correct for personal choices, like occupation, degree, seniority, etc., and the gap virtually disappears. Recall further that when economists refer to “full-time” workers, they mean anyone working 35 hours a week or more. So the supermarket cashier who works 35 hours and her manager who works 65 hours are both “full-time” employees lumped into a single bracket. The simple fact is that, according to all datasets, men work more hours at paid employment than do women and that accounts for about half of the wage gap.
They also tend to work at jobs that pay more than those typically worked by women. That’s partly because men tend to work at the most hazardous jobs like fishing, logging and construction that must offer higher pay to attract qualified workers. Women still predominate in jobs like teaching, nursing, retail sales and clerical positions that traditionally are on the low end of the wage scale. Those employment choices account for much of the rest of the gender wage gap.
All of this has been known for many years. Back in 2006, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich admitted in an interview with the New York Times that there’s a gap of only 5 – 7% that’s not fully explained by the choices men and women make about paid work. Unsurprisingly, the AAUW study finds a gap of 6.6% once known variables like hours worked, seniority, job choice and the like are factored in, so it’s right in line with literally dozens of other studies. In 2008, the think tank CONSAD analyzed 50 different studies of the wage gap and concluded that it "may be almost entirely the result of individual choices being made by both male and female workers."
As Sommers points out, even that 5 – 7% gap probably has little to do with anti-female discrimination. As Reich said in his NYT interview, that gap results from causes as yet unknown. The bulk of the wage gap is easily explained by men’s and women’s choices. What explains the 5 – 7% residual gap? The manner in which data are collected doesn’t allow us to figure that out, but there are some highly persuasive possibilities. Most important is the fact that the data tend to compare jobs that aren’t really comparable.
As but one example, Sommers quotes the Manhattan Institute’s Diana Furchtgott-Roth as saying that “[t]he AAUW study classifies jobs as diverse as librarian, lawyer, professional athlete, and "media occupations" under a single rubric--"other white collar." Of course no one thinks that librarians and lawyers receive comparable pay, so it’s no surprise that there’s a wage gap in the AAUW data.
The idea of a discrimination-induced wage gap has for decades been a favorite trope of feminist rhetoric. The problem is that it’s never held up under even casual scrutiny. What’s perhaps most noteworthy is not that the gender wage gap collapses under careful economic study, but that careful study is unnecessary. To be blunt, no claim that the wage gap stems from discrimination passes the smell test.
For one thing, as skeptics have long pointed out, if employers could get equally qualified female workers for 75 cents for every dollar they’d pay to males, why would they hire males? The enormous competitive advantage of hiring women would shove men to the sidelines. No one’s ever answered that most obvious of questions.
For another, imagine the magnitude of discrimination it would take to produce an across-the-board wage gap of 23%. In non-recessionary times, this economy employs about 140 million men and women in full and part-time jobs. Almost half of those are women. To create such a wage differential, the largest employers in the country, including federal, state and local governments would have to discriminate wholesale against women. In order to do that, there would have to be written policies ensuring that men were paid more than women. Of course nothing of the kind is being done and if it were, lawsuits would be inundating all levels of federal and state courts.
That of course brings us to the final well-known reason that there is no widespread discrimination in wages on the basis of sex – it’s against the law. If that type of sex discrimination existed, the EEOC would know about it, but the years pass with no tidal wave of lawsuits.
It’s high time feminists stopped trying to convince the public and our elected officials of something that’s not true. I know it makes for rousing press releases, but truly, we all have better things to do than argue about non-issues.
Women on average do less paid work than do men, while doing more childcare. That’s their choice, and to my mind it’s a smart one. My guess is that a healthy balance between work and family, between the public and private, between adults and children is richer and more fulfilling in the long run than a life in the corporate grind. If that means women earn less than men, so be it. It’s their decision and they seem to live with it without regret or rancor.
If the AAUW is any indication, we’ll soon be able to say that about feminists as well.
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