Samuelson tries to inject some reason into ‘gender pay gap’

From Robert Samuelson at The Washington Post:


Robert Samuelson

The gender pay gap is back in the news — and it may become a major issue in the presidential campaign. It seems an open-and-shut case of job discrimination. Women earn only 79 percent of men’s average hourly wages. Who could favor that? Actually, the comparison is bogus. A more accurate ratio, after adjusting for differences in gender employment patterns, is closer to 92 percent. Even the remaining gap of 8 percentage points may not stem fully from discrimination….

… if women were paid a fifth less for doing the same work as men, there would be pervasive discrimination. That’s how the pay gap is interpreted by many. They demand “equal pay for equal work.” But that’s not what the pay gap shows. It’s simply the ratio of women’s average hourly pay to men’s average hourly pay. The jobs in the comparison are not the same, and when these differences are taken into account, the ratio of women’s pay to men’s rises to almost 92 percent from 79 percent, say Blau and Kahn….

After all the adjustments, the remaining 8-percentage-point unexplained gender gap could reflect discrimination….

But the persisting gap could have other causes….

Go read the whole thing. I’ve given you about as much as I can under Fair Use rules. (I think. Fair Use is open to interpretation.)

In any case, don’t expect the study Samuelson is writing about or anything else to modify the way Democrats speak about this. That 79 percent, and the assumption that it’s all about discrimination, is far too important to their whole “War on Women” meme to allow it to be sullied by considerations of reality.

Both parties like to trump up issues to generate outrage among their respective bases. This is a favorite among the Democrats.

37 thoughts on “Samuelson tries to inject some reason into ‘gender pay gap’

  1. Doug Ross

    Every job I’ve had for my adult life when working for a corporation was classified according to a job code with a pay range that was known to each employee (plus, usually, the range of the next job up on the ladder). There were no separate ranges for men and women. Since I’ve been in the consulting world, there isn’t even any pay range any more. You get the rate you believe you are worth.

    Whatever differences may exist in very niche areas are a typically a result of experience (affected by having/caring for children), willingness to move, aggressiveness in negotiation and playing politics to move up.

    I’m not claiming there aren’t areas where there are differences but using the 79 cents on the dollar number is patently false when you dig even an inch below the surface. I’d love to see Hillary’s campaign payroll released. I would assume there would be plenty of cases where women were making as much or more than the men in similar jobs. Would she dare prove it?

    1. Doug Ross

      “Though women are faring worse financially than men, they are faring far better than women who worked for Clinton’s Senate office. A Washington Free Beacon analysis of her office’s salary data from 2002 to 2008 found that women were paid 72 cents for each dollar paid to men, and that the median salary for a woman was $15,708.38 less than the median salary for a man. The Clinton campaign confirmed the accuracy of the findings.”

  2. Bob Amundson

    One source of the current gap (I’m not debating the size of the gap) is the fact that women still take more time off from work to care for their families, and these family responsibilities may also affect the kinds of work they choose. Paid family leave and more support for early child care and education would go a long way toward relieving families, and women in particular, of the dual burden they now face. In the process, the pay gap should shrink or even move in favor of women.

  3. bud

    The king of the false equivalents strikes again. Just to be clear this equal pay issue is not much of an issue for me. The 79% figure is clearly not the correct figure to use. If comparable jobs are compared it’s likely around 94%, perhaps higher. At least according to the Wiki article, but I’ve seen comparable numbers elsewhere. Samuelson is sort of correct but there is still a pay gap probably due to gender. Just check out the women’s tennis controversy.

    We have this rather milquetoast exaggeration of a very real issue serving as the balance to conservative issues that are just absurd, like building a wall and having the Mexicans pay for it. Or carpet bombing “terrorists”. The problem is not that the parties are equally culpable in the political discourse but rather the GOP has gone off the rails with extreme rhetoric and thoroughly unworkable policy suggestions.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Dang! I thought for a minute that you were the OTHER Bill, and you were linking me to some cool music. This one’s not easy to dance to.

      But here is the operative graf:

      The top three male-dominated occupations (software developer, computer-systems administrator and construction project manager) all offered higher average pay, they found, than the top three female-dominated occupations (elementary-school teacher, registered nurse and human-resources specialist). The average income for a 22-year-old man in this analysis was $40,800, compared with $31,090 for a 22-year-old woman.

      1. Doug Ross

        Yeah, that’s how the market works. Were the females in the male dominated jobs paid less? That would be meaningful.

        In other news, clerks at Wal Mart are paid less than rocket scientists.

        1. Doug Ross

          Ok, here’s the better statistic buried near the end:

          Across all fields, after controlling for major, occupation and grade-point average, the report found women still earned 7 percent less than men.

      2. Bill

        Very selective reading.
        But then, i reckon this is one of those things where people see what they wanna to see.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          You could say that, Bill. But when I read something, I’m looking for the “why,” and what I quoted is one of the bits in the story that actually helps explain the “why.”

          The doctrine that Hillary Clinton and most of her supporters embrace is that it’s all discrimination. Their scenario is that employers see a woman walk in the door and say to themselves, “I’m going to pay her less because she’s a woman and I like to be mean to women.”

          Which I think is absurd. It doesn’t match anything I’ve seen in my working lifetime, most of it as a manager. I started working in the mid-1970s, at the very height of feminist consciousness-raising (it amuses me to see people 40 years younger act like they discovered feminism and everything was beastly chauvinism before they came along — although it occurs to me that they don’t use that word, “chauvinism,” the way feminists used to).

          Admittedly, I’ve spent most of my life in a relatively PC profession. But it’s tough for me to imagine overt exploitation of women in any company big enough to have an HR department. In my experience, HR people are like the KGB zampolits who were embedded in Soviet military units to ensure they acted in keeping with socialist principles. The HR department won’t let anyone do ANYTHING that could possibly be interpreted by even the most sensitive person as discrimination.

          Yeah, there might be some tiny, Mom and Pop business here and there that is run along the personal, atavistic prejudices of the boss. But I don’t see that as pervasive enough to explain the “pay gap” that Hillary goes on about.

          But women choosing lower-paid professions, and interrupting their careers when they have babies and so forth — I can see how THOSE things could easily eat into their salaries. Those things are real.

          And this isn’t BLAMING women for life choices or any nonsense such as that. I honor anyone who chooses to be, say, a teacher rather than a stockbroker or whatever, despite the lower pay. It’s something I can identify with, having chosen to be a journalist rather than scores of other better-paying things I could have done.

          I respect that. But one knows that the pay is going to be lower. It’s a tradeoff. And to try to mandate some pay equity plan imposed by government to artificially create averages in which women in the aggregate make the same amount as men is absurd. You’re swimming against the reality of millions of women choosing lower-paying professions…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            As for that parenthetical of mine above (“it amuses me to see people 40 years younger act like they discovered feminism and everything was beastly chauvinism before they came along”)…

            Did you ever see the British series “Life on Mars,” in which a modern-day English detective is hit by a car and suddenly transported to being a cop in 1973?

            I really enjoyed that series, but I was a bit put off by the ridiculous description of life in 1973. You’d have thought it was 1873, the way aggressive sexism was the norm, and the way the cops played fast and loose with the rules.

            To me, that was a time of GREAT political correctness — which I don’t mean in a pejorative way. Everybody was trying to be very sensitive and aware and careful not to act in a discriminatory manner. (Although there were older people in the workplace who were NOT yet with the program, as I recall, which might help explain DCI Gene Hunt.)

            Of course, my experience was in this country, and I’ve gotten the impression elsewhere that the Brits didn’t go through these social changes in quite the same way or at quite the same time we did. So maybe it’s accurate — or, you know, accurate enough for a far-fetched premise.

            And of course, much of the fun of the series was the culture clash between the oh-so-proper-and-professional modern Sam Tyler and the Neanderthal Gene Hunt…

            1. Bill

              You must’ve grown up elsewhere. Because when I was growing up in SC in the 70s, it didn’t seem at all like a time of “GREAT political correctness.” Little if any of it spread very wide or penetrated very deep in these parts.

          2. Bob Amundson

            Please explain why professions dominated by women, such as elementary education, are lower paid then those dominated by men. Seems nursing, child care, social work and education are very important to our society, but salaries are low. Is engineering, a male dominated profession, really worth more to society?

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              See, now Bob is onto something. There’s no job more important than teaching and caring for and guiding children, but it’s lower-paying than other professions.

              But see, that’s a lot harder to fix than saying “equal pay for equal work.” It requires a shift of values. And all of society has to be involved in making such a change. You can’t just complain about awful, unfair bosses or what have you. The electorate would have to demand higher pay for teachers so that our public schools would pay more. That’s heavy lifting.

          3. Bill

            Well, to the mansplainers of the world, it seems that women ain’t got nothing to complain about, then, since the pay gap women criticize is just a manifestation of their own choices. (Though that clearly wasn’t what the article was arguing.) So, from this point of view, women – the ones who complain anyway – DO have only themselves to blame.

            But even IF that’s true, the underlying and more important question is: why is it overwhelmingly women who end up having to make the sort of job/career “choices” (mainly having to do with family) that cause them to end up with the short end of the stick? Maybe that’s why they have a hard time swallowing the explanations that mansplainers, including the ones here, have on offer.

              1. Bill

                Not at all.

                But it does mean that when they do weigh in, they should at least make an honest effort to get beyond an obvious male bias.

                1. Mark Stewart

                  Which is/are what exactly?

                  And asking that someone be “honest” is a projection; the meaning is clearly not honesty, but instead the preconception of dishonesty. It’s disingenuous doublespeak.

                2. Bill

                  Oh my word, now somebody’s playing psychoanalyst. That’s just plain pitiful.

                  What bias, you ask? Well, the bias shown by focusing on a single statistic, as if the whole issue stands or falls on that alone, as if it proves that the pay gap issue is a lie.

                  The article I linked to, on the other hand, pointed out that there clearly is a pay gap between men and women who have just started their careers and who are working in the same fields. That should, at the very least, raise some questions.

                  But rather than address that (and maybe learn something from it), folks here selectively pick out one thing or another in the article that they claim proves their own point-of-view. And otherwise get bent all out of shape over a word.

                  Call it bias, or call it tunnel-vision. Either way, it’s a problem – and largely a male one at that.

                3. Mark Stewart

                  From your WaPo story:
                  Teresa Kroeger, who co-authored the paper, said rising wages for men at the top of the income distribution appear to be exacerbating the chasm. “We suspect this is following the overall trend of the economy,” she said.

                  Men tend to dominate the workforce in the highest-paid career fields, Kroeger said — technology and finance, for example. These fields have enjoyed more wage growth over the past year as pay in others has stagnated. That may explain part of the recently ballooning gap.
                  So in other words, what we likely have is a skills gap.

                  There are absolutely real issues facing women in the workforce (including discrimination/harassment from some men), but equal pay for equal work is not one of them. It might have been around the time I was born – and that wasn’t yesterday – but in today’s economy companies pay for performance.

              2. Brad Warthen Post author

                Bill, let me tell you something — every thought I express here is honest, and the result of my having thought carefully about the issue before writing.

                You probably don’t mean to give this impression, but what you just said sounds a lot like, “You are free to express an opinion on the subject, as long as it is the right one.”

                Anyway, that’s what I hear whenever I’m told to, for instance, check my privilege. I take it to mean that my honest, carefully considered opinion fails to meet some ideological standard.

                I’m sorry, but the ideologically correct conclusion on this fails to persuade….

              3. Brad Warthen Post author

                I just find that aspect of feminism sad and dispiriting.

                I HATE disagreeing with women. My relationships with women in my life have tended to be the most intellectually and socially rewarding, and it just depresses me when I see barriers erected based on gender or any other demographic condition.

                To walk straight into a wall that says, because you are a man, you should shut up on this subject unless you agree with this particular position, really saddens me…

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Because here’s the thing: I will do just about anything to maintain good relationships with the women in my life. Guys, other than a very few I’m close to, I don’t mind being at odds with. But I really hate having a chasm of misunderstanding between me and women I like and respect.

                  As I say, I’ll do just about anything to avoid such alienation… EXCEPT this: I won’t be intellectually dishonest. I may avoid a certain issue up to a point because it can be a source of friction, but if it keeps coming up over and over — as does this one — at some point I’m going to speak up and say what I think. I’m not going to say I think something else just to keep everybody liking me.

                  Some people will not only do that, but will persuade themselves that they truly believe the thing that creates greater harmony with their friends.

                  I won’t do that. I lack that gene, or something…

                2. Bill

                  Well, this is about something bigger than anybody’s personal relationships with women – though it’s kind of revealing that you put in those terms, I guess.

                  No ideology at work here – except maybe on the part of those who label things as ideological rather than question their own biases by taking a closer look at underlying causes. Too bad. Missed opportunity.

                  But I guess that’s what most blogs are about, including this one: expressing opinions instead of examining them.

              4. Bob Amundson

                Policy nuance is tough these days, and you understand that. Difficult concepts, policy and otherwise, are condensed into a format that fits in our sound bite, hurry up world. Another complication is discrimination still exists, but seems to be more covert than overt.

                It’s not easy to explain nuance in this format, but I just tried.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Yes, with parties and interest groups justifying and funding themselves by oversimplifying and dismissing (if not demonizing) those who disagree, nuance is difficult.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Now see, THAT’S doable. It’s pretty straightforward and doesn’t involve nearly the huge number of variables as trying to mandate equal pay.

              By the way, Mr. Prince, completely changing the subject…

              Since you’re in Germany, I’m curious: Have you seen “Er ist wieder da“? What did you think of it? What did your friends and neighbors think?

              I tried to get a conversation going about it here, but was unsuccessful — possibly because no one else had seen it yet…

              1. Mprince

                No, I haven’t seen Er ist wieder da – though I have seen several previews and related stuff. This is the kind of movie I don’t generally go to see in theaters (not really big screen material), and instead wait until it comes out on DVD.

                Besides that, I got turned off to German Hitler satires after watching Mein (My) Führer ( , which was rather puerile, and not really funny, save for a couple of isolated scenes.

                More generally, German humor can be problematic for non-Germans. It’s often quite broad and operates on a different musical scale, so to speak, compared with most American or British comedy. The only German humorists that I’ve found funny were Loriot ( and the Bavarian cabaretist, Gerhard Polt. But while both have also made movies, neither of them are much known outside Germany. Here’s the only example of the latter in English:


                The inside joke here is that Bavaria – here extolled as the paragon of democracy – has been governed by the same party (the conservative Christian Social Union) for over 50 years.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  Well, “Er ist wieder da” is on Netflix now. Do you get that in Germany? I figured it was global, but I was shocked last year to learn that I couldn’t use it in Thailand.

                  I figured that I had access to the Internet wherever I went, and Netflix is on the Internet, so… but no, it’s blocked there.

                  Which shows how little I know about the Web, I guess…

  4. Doug Ross

    If women dominate the HR specialist profession, why aren’t they doing more to change the pay gap if it exists? Seems like they would be in the perfect spot to do something about it.

    Same applies for the supposed lack of females who choose STEM related careers. Why aren’t the female teachers who outnumber males by a wide margin doing more to change that?

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