Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Myth that Gender Wage Gap is Rooted in Discrimination Lives On

You may have missed it.  Equal Pay Day was celebrated ("celebrated" may not be the right word) earlier earlier this month, on March 14th.  That day "represents how far into the year women had to work to catch up to what their male colleagues earned the previous year."  In other words, women have to work 14 1/2 months to earn what a man makes in a year.  According to NPR, women make 82 cents on the dollar that men make.  Sometimes that figure is cited at 83 cents.

The reason for the discrepancy?  Discrimination!  Women are paid less than men doing the same jobsbecause of discrimination!  

That would be an outrage...if it were true.

In 1963, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act which says that all employees, regardless of sex,
must be paid equally for the same work.  An employer, however, is able to pay employees more if they have more education and experience than other employees doing the same job.  

Time Magazine debunked the myth of the pay gap as evidence of discrimination several years ago:
No matter how many times this wage gap claim is decisively refuted by economists, it always comes back. The bottom line: the 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full-time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure or hours worked per week. When such relevant factors are considered, the wage gap narrows to the point of vanishing

Wage gap activists say women with identical backgrounds and jobs as men still earn less. But they always fail to take into account critical variables. Activist groups like the National Organization for Women have a fallback position: that women’s education and career choices are not truly free—they are driven by powerful sexist stereotypes. In this view, women’s tendency to retreat from the workplace to raise children or to enter fields like early childhood education and psychology, rather than better paying professions like petroleum engineering, is evidence of continued social coercion. Here is the problem: American women are among the best informed and most self-determining human beings in the world. To say that they are manipulated into their life choices by forces beyond their control is divorced from reality and demeaning, to boot.

Women are paid less than men on average because they tend to work jobs in lower paid fields and have less experience than their male counterparts in those jobs, chiefly because they take time out of their careers to raise families.   Some reports say that once career choice and experience on the job are considered the wage gap shrinks to a couple cents or so.   There are reasons to have discussions about whether policy changes - such as government assistance for child care - might help even the workplace playing field that, slightly, favors men.  But let's not lie to ourselves that the gender wage differences are chiefly about discrimination.  It just isn't.

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