November 6 2012

Wage Gap Whammy

Vicki E. Alger

We’re still trying to figure that out.” That’s what the American Association of University Women (AAUW) had to say when asked about how much of the 6.6-cent average earnings difference between men and women is caused by discrimination as they claim.

Statistics. It’s a bear, isn’t it? Well, maybe not for people who think it’s okay to explain away pesky facts by claiming discrimination. Washington Examiner Columnist Diana Furchtgott-Roth has some answers for those of us who don’t:

Buried in the report is the finding that, accounting for college majors and occupations, women make 93 cents (not 82) on a man's dollar. The remaining seven cents, the authors contend, is likely due to discrimination, because they cannot explain it. So let me offer a possible explanation for them: The study's occupational categories are too broad. One cannot draw precise conclusions about pay equity when comparing workers within fields such as "Other White Collar," "Business and Management" and simply, "Other Occupations."

A footnote tells readers that "Other White Collar" includes "social scientists and related workers ... ; lawyers, judges, and related workers; education, training, and library occupations ... ; arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations; social science research assistants; and law clerks." So, the AAUW report compares the pay of male lawyers with that of female librarians; of male athletes with that of female communications assistants. That's not a comparison between people who do the same work.

"Other Occupations" includes jobs in construction and mining, a high-paying, male-dominated occupation, and also jobs in food preparation and serving occupations, a low-paying, female-dominated occupation. If a waitress is paid less than a miner, does it follow that it's because she's been discriminated against?

In order to show discrimination, the report should document differences in salaries of men and women in the same job with the same experience. If there's a big difference under those circumstances, then there may be discrimination, giving women grounds to sue. The AAUW study didn't even look at men and women in the same field, much less on the same job.

Another problem is that the wage- and degrees-gap crowd don’t take into account is that women actually earn more of the degrees in fields with higher earnings than men—even though their chosen fields might not happen to be the ones preferred by the gender politics boosters.

But why release a shoddy study in the first place? Furchtgott-Roth explained the AAUW’s motivation:

Lisa Maatz, director of public policy and government relations at AAUW, answered this question at the AAUW media conference call when the study was released.

Maatz said that part of the reason the AAUW wants to do this work is that it has an extensive get-out-the-vote movement. In this sense, she continued, this report is very well-timed. …It seems that the AAUW is twisting the data to get young women to feel that they are victims of discrimination and march out and vote for President Obama, who is promising pay equity.

Yet President Obama’s been no boom to women’s bottom line, as Furchtgott-Roth concludes:

The percentage of employed women in the population has declined from 57 percent in January 2009 to 55 percent in September 2012…Over the same period, the number of unemployed women increased from 4.4 million to 4.9 million….

If women actually were paid 82 cents on the dollar for the exact same work as men, they could sue. They are too smart to believe the AAUW's political propaganda.

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