The Wage Gap Myth

Sometimes you just have to feel sorry for President Obama. Having recently appointed Austan Goolsbee to his economic team, feminists are outraged that Obama chose a man to replace Christina Romer. "Many women have become the sole breadwinners, but because of the wage gap, as the sole breadwinner they can't provide for their families as men can," Terry O'Neill, head of the National Organization for Women, said. "If you had half of the economic advisers being women, I think that perspective would come to the forefront."

In one sense, O'Neill is right about a wage gap -- on average, women earn about 80 cents to a man's dollar. Could this mean feminists and Democrats actually have a point on this one? Not a chance. In lieu of the recent 39th anniversary of "Women's Equality Day" and O'Neill's remarks, it is imperative we revisit the wage gap myth. As much as special-interest groups and the media love to parrot the 80 cent statistic, it is hardly due to gender discrimination.

For starters, the government statistics bellowed by women's groups are not at all credible because they do not take occupational choice into account. After nearly fifteen years of research, Dr. Warren Farrell uncovered numerous reasons for the pay gap. Generally, women value relationships more than their careers or money, enter and leave the work force at a much higher rate, work part-time at a much higher rate, and work in professions with much lower compensation. As he explains in his book, Why Men Earn More, nearly all of it boils down to differences in occupation, and men overwhelmingly dominate jobs that

  • are in an unpleasant environment (sanitation vs. child care)
  • require harder-to-attain skills (physics vs. philosophy)
  • require longer work hours
  • demand financial risk (entrepreneur vs. teaching)
  • are inconvenient (i.e., relocation)
  • are hazardous (construction vs. librarian)
Due to the simple laws of supply and demand, these occupations pay more and contribute immensely to the pay gap. But again, government statistics completely neglect occupation -- making a raw comparison of all working men and women instead (e.g., the female receptionist is lumped in with the $21,000/hr Lebron James and little-guy Michael Moore). 

Wage gap statistics also do not account for time commitment. On average, women work far less than men because they choose to have much more balance in their lives. A study by the Center for Policy Alternatives and Lifetime Television found that nearly 85 percent of women took advantage of flexible work arrangements offered by their employers. And a decade after graduating college, 39 percent of women leave the work force or work part-time, versus 3 percent of men. Aside from the obvious benefits of working longer, workers who average 44 or more hours per week earn approximately 100 percent more than workers who average 40 hours.

This is particularly significant, as it touches upon the glass ceiling myth. Now, normally the burden of proof is placed on the accusers, but not so with progressives' ad hominem attacks -- making honest debate virtually impossible. Recently dealt the "good ol' boys network"-card by feminists, Obama can finally attest to the pain of identity politics. June O'Neill, former director of the CBO, argues that if you take out the effects of marriage and childrearing, essentially, "there is no earnings gap."

Also commemorating "Women's Equality Day" was Bill Singler on the Huffington Post. Although Singler never quite explains why, he does not buy into the "choice" argument and derides a Chamber of Commerce blog for supposing otherwise, even resorting to capitalism and family values to propagate the wage gap myth. Contrary to "the bedrock of American capitalism," he claims that these choices are often "forced upon women." (Isn't "choice" supposed to be a major platform of the Democratic Party?) 

Columnist Marty Nemko speaks to this anecdotal fallacy:

Steven Rhoades, author of the new book, Taking Sex Differences Seriously, cites study after study indicating that the main reason most women want ample family time is their biological drive to have children and be the primary family caregiver. Feminist activists argue that is social conditioning by "the male hegemony." But if that were true, then why do women take on most family caregiving in every society from Iceland to New Guinea, in every era from ancient times to today, and in all political contexts from communist to capitalist? Women's desire to prioritize family caregiving is mainly biological predisposition, not cultural brainwashing.

President Barack Obama has certainly done his part to exploit the wage gap; he most recently endorsed the Paycheck Fairness Act, calling it a "commonsense bill." Daniel Fisher of Forbes and James Sherk from the Heritage Foundation illustrate why the act is anything but. Guess who stands to gain the most from the act. You got it -- big government and trial lawyers. 

In another recent Huffington Post article, the ACLU's Deborah J. Vagins literally equates the Paycheck Fairness Act to the suffrage movement, labeling it "the next milestone in the fight for equal rights." Vagins concludes, "I feel compelled to ask: how long must women wait for equality? I hope my question is answered, as it once was 90 years ago, with a landmark achievement in equal rights."

Apparently Dr. Farrell is equally compelled and moved by the right to vote. Making note of the military's draft and combat policies, Farrell harshly denounces these diminutive minds: "Women are the only group who get the right to vote without responsibility. Only adolescents expect rights without responsibilities. Adults know they go together." Note: Farrell was a three-time board member of NOW.

To further illustrate the lunacy surrounding the purported wage gap, let's flip the situation on its head. If right-wingers adopted the left wing's politics of victimhood, entitlement, divisiveness, and envy, if right-wing males were like left-wing females, if the media were an echo chamber of conservative bias, and if universities were ground zero for right-wing indoctrination, one could easily be led to believe there is a very real and systemic pattern of gender discrimination against males. Consider:

  • women who have never had a child earn 113 percent of what men earn
  • there are some 80 fields where women earn more than men
  • about 80 percent of the jobs lost in the recession were lost by men
  • males are exponentially more likely to become incarcerated or homeless
  • males disproportionately sacrifice much of their prime years in service of the military
  • the male-to-female ratio on college campuses is now about 40/60
  • approximately 93 percent of workplace fatalities are men
  • among unmarried college-educated men and women between 40 and 64, men earn nearly 15 percent less
Given these facts, it wouldn't be very hard to convince a young, apolitical, and impressionable college student, like I was, that all males are helpless victims, would it? Any blind ideologue can nitpick a few facts here and there to fit her agenda, and all anybody can do is debunk one disgusting, unsubstantiated myth at a time. Says Dr. Farrell, "My research indicates that, overall, when men and women do precisely the same work, women now get paid as much, or more than men."

Women need men like a fish needs a bicycle, "strong" and "independent" feminists like to say. How any group so helplessly dependent on the patriarchal teat of Uncle Sam can claim to be "strong" and "independent" is laughable at best. As the wage gap myth clearly demonstrates, the biggest irony of it all is the fact that modern-day feminists are the very antithesis.

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