Equal Pay Day

Or: Lies, damned lies and statistics.

It is a well-known fact that women earn 77 cents for every dollar that men make. The president even mentioned it in his recent State of the Union address.

Close, but no cigar. The first part of president’s statement (“women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns...”) and the second part (“That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. Women deserve equal pay for equal work.“) are not congruent with each other.

It is true that the “average” woman earns substantially less than the “average” man, but the use of “Averages” can be dangerously misleading when not comparing like with like. For instance: The Average Oil Rig worker, Plumber, Farmer or Engineer is male, while the Average Primary School Teacher, Nurse, Cheerleader or Human-Resources Paper-shuffler is female. Which jobs are more hazardous? Which are more valuable? Which should be paid more?

Another factor is personal priorities: Women generally choose jobs that revolve around their lifestyles and family commitments. Man generally arrange their lifestyles and family commitments around their work. “Many working mothers seek jobs that provide greater flexibility, such as telecommuting or flexible hours. Not all jobs can be flexible, and all other things being equal, those which are will pay less than those that do not”. This means that men are more valuable to their employers than women. A man who will travel on business at a moment’s notice is more useful to a company than a women who, quite reasonably, puts her family first. The conclusion is obvious: more useful => more valuable => higher pay.

According to recent government statistics, salaried men and salaried women doing the same job generally get paid within 5% of each other (“Single women who have never married earned 96% of men’s earnings in 2012.”). Sometimes the women earn more (particularly in big cities), sometimes the men. (example: Female pharmacists made $1,871 per week, males made $1,879).

Salaried men work longer hours than salaried women. “Men were almost twice as likely as women to work more than 40 hours a week, and women almost twice as likely to work only 35 to 39 hours per week.” This leads to an alarming thought: If women work shorter hours and get the same pay, who is really being shortchanged?

It is easy to hear a sympathetic-sounding soundbite and perceive an inequality, but the fact is that women in America already enjoy more protections and privilege than do women anywhere in the world throughout the course of recorded history. But the final nail in the coffin of this dangerous misconception is the straight-face test: If women really did the same work as men for less pay, why haven’t the “greedy” corporations fired all the men, replaced them with a cheaper all-female workforce, and profited off the difference? The answer is obvious: men must bring something to the workforce that women generally don’t.

Happy Equal Pay Day. If you believe that sort of thing.

Statistics taken from The Bureau of Labor Statistics report “Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2012“.

Quotes taken from “The ’77 Cents on the Dollar’ Myth About Women’s Pay” (Wall Street Journal)

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