September 3 2013

Hanna Rosin: The 77 Cent Gender Wage Gap Isn't True

Charlotte Hays

The IWF has long been engaged in explaining that the 77 cents gender wage gap simply isn’t accurate. But now the prominent liberal writer Hanna Rosin is blowing the whistle on the misrepresentation. Rosin writes:

How many times have you heard that “women are paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men”? Barack Obama said it during his last campaign. Women’s groups say it every April 9, which is Equal Pay Day. In preparation for Labor Day, a group protesting outside Macy’s this week repeated it, too, holding up signs and sending out press releases saying “women make $.77 to every dollar men make on the job.” I’ve heard the line enough times that I feel the need to set the record straight: It’s not true.

In quest of the “pure wage gap,” Rosin argues that comparing weekly wages is a better way to arrive at the wage gap number than comparing annual salaries. Women, she notes, often opt to work fewer hours per week. This should be factored into the equation. When it is done, Rosin asserts that the actual wage-gap is 81 cents to the man’s dollar.

Rosin then goes on to acknowledge that other factors are relevant. Women are more likely to major in college in fields that will lead to less lucrative jobs and they are more likely, out of college, to choose work that appeals to them but isn’t as high-paying as the professions men are more likely to enter. With these issues factored in, the wage gap becomes 91 cents to the dollar.

IWF’s argument has long been—so far—quite similar to Rosin’s: factor in the choices women make, and the wage gap shrinks. Indeed, as we have noted many times, women who are recent college grads living in urban centers statistically out-earn their male counterparts.

We can’t claim Rosin as a convert, however. Using figures more in line with what we consider realistic, Rosin nevertheless flips the argument and makes it come out in favor of more, not less, government:

If this midcareer gap is due to discrimination, it’s much deeper than “male boss looks at female hire and decides she is worth less, and then pats her male colleague on the back and slips him a bonus.” It’s the deeper, more systemic discrimination of inadequate family-leave policies and childcare options, of women defaulting to being the caretakers. Or of women deciding that are suited to be nurses and teachers but not doctors. And in that more complicated discussion, you have to leave room at least for the option of choice—that women just don’t want to work the same way men do.  

Well, at least we’re beginning to get closer together on the numbers.

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