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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Gender Gap"

The gap exists, but is it a problem?  Women make 20+% less than men depending on what study you point to.  Ok.  So what.   Just saying it, doesn't make it a problem.  Black men make less than white men.  People with college degrees make more than those with high school degrees only.  Do we need to 'fix' those issues too?

The Indianapolis Star obviously isn't interested in the actual research - just more interested in assuming the gap is something that needs 'fixing' (without of course explicitly stating how, though implicity suggesting employers just need to pay more to women).

The fact that the author dismisses the anger from those that think the wage gap is something that needs fixing is unfortunate.  There is anger because the wage gap, while not a myth itself, perpetuates the myth that by itself it is a problem that needs solving.

Economists have studied this for years and a main reason a gap exists is because women self-select into lower paying jobs than men.  Also, many of these gap studies only focus on basic wages and salaries and ignore the benefits side of the equation which for many employers is 30+% of labor cost.  Additionally, women tend to work fewer hours than men.  Due to child-rearing norms, women tend to have less workforce attachment than men.  Education levels, training, and work experience differences have also been found to be factors.    That is why they get paid less for the most part.  Is sexism part of it?  I'm sure it is, but to imply that the entire gap of 20+% is sexism that needs to be 'fixed' is ridiculous.

The anger comes from the fact that many people don't think that gap should be 'fixed' - because it's either not really that broken or the part that might need fixing itself is much lower that it is purported to be.   In other words, they are angry because they feel there are erroneous assumptions being made.  The St. Louis Federal Reserve estimates that the gap, just after adjusting for benefits and job characteristics, may be less than 5%.   This is not to mention any of the other points I mention above.  Or, if you do think it needs fixing, perhaps folks should focus on why these differences exist from a sociological perspective, as opposed to just looking at this as a quick fix that means 'employers need to pay women more'.   Should we pay women more if the reason they are getting a lower wage is due to their own job choice, or due to their education/training/job attachment, or due to the fact that they get more in benefits...?  If so perhaps we need to start paying blacks more.  Perhaps we need to start paying high school drop-outs more.   Perhaps we need to start paying the less experienced more.  I don't suggest the answer is one way or the other to any of these. But to ignore these deeper issues is to ignore the statistics.