December 20 2010

A Welcome Report on the Wage Gap

Carrie L. Lukas

Decisions women make about work dictate how much they earn, and those decisions, not discrimination, are responsible for the pay gap between men and women: According to the Telegraph, that's the conclusion of a forthcoming study by Catherine Hakim, a sociologist at the London School of Economics. The Telegraph explains:

. . . women have the freedom to make lifestyle choices about their work and private lives, and that tougher equality laws will not open any more doors for female workers. . . .

In a 12,000-word report to be published next month, Dr Hakim described new government policies to promote equality as "pointless" and based on "feminist myths".

This report will be a welcome addition to the literature refuting the claim that women make 77 cents on the dollar for equal work. One commentator on the article put it best, calling this "yet another piece of research from the university of the bleedin' obvious."

It may be obvious to those outside the realm of academia and policymaking, but nevertheless, the idea that systematic discrimination is the root cause of the pay gap underlies plenty of policies around the world (such as the push to mandate that all corporate boards have 40 percent women) and here in the U.S. (see the recent push for the Paycheck Fairness Act). Such legislation isn't just unnecessary; it could backfire on those it seeks to help by impeding economic growth and discouraging employers from offering flexible work arrangements.

Society shouldn't expect men and women to make the same choices when it comes to work and family, and therefore shouldn't expect them to earn the same amount. Most people get that. It's time for those in government to catch up.

- Carrie Lukas is executive director of the Independent Women's Forum.

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