Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The wage gap, give me a break

John Stossel (article)

I am a firm believer that by-in-large discrimination does not take place anymore. (At least by the average person in America.) So when there are studies that say it does, I have to think twice about them, unfortunately I don't normally have the time (or desire) as to find out where the study goes wrong. Luckily this John Stossel has found out why there is a 'gender gap' in paychecks, and his answer makes sense.

Suppose two people have equal potential, but one takes on more demanding, consuming, lucrative jobs while the other places a higher priority on family. The one who makes work the focus will be more productive for an employer than the one who puts his or her home life first. The latter will get more of the pleasures of family. So he (and it tends to be "he") will make more money, even though she would be equally productive and equally rewarded if she made the same choices.


nettymus said...

Good, it's good to see someone more "official" said what I was pretty sure of.

Big Red Lance said...

Ookami - You beat me to the punch posting this article. Three cheers for John Stossel.

He makes a good point when he says that if women were really being paid less than average, employers would hire women only. They'd saved thousands, even millions, in labor costs.

The wage gap is a myth.


p.s. His book rules.

Braveharte said...

Now that's all fine and dandy, but the problem is that when you have a woman who is not family oriented... let's say a single woman who is every bit as ambitious in the job as a man. She is expected to be "family oriented" and thus is paid less. There is no actual difference in her productivity but because of gender stereotypes she is viewed as less productive and therefore paid less which means she is discriminated against by her employer. Or let us assume that in fact women are doing more home and family work which prevents them from being as productive as men. Is it not a form of discrimination (not in the workplace but in the home) that women are doing 66% of the housework? No wonder they can't be as productive if men don't do any of the damn housework. Why do many women stay home with their children rather than men? Often it is because they are paid less. Why are they paid less? Often because employers expect them to leave the workforce to have families. A circularity that could be stopped if discrimination were stopped. How about discrimination in the types of work that counselors encourage women to do? Or the salaries of stereotypically female jobs compared to men? Why does an auto mechanic get paid $60 an hour and a nurse gets only $15? Nurses certainly have more specialized education than auto mechanics. On a side note, John Stossel is far from an "official". He is an anchor on 20/20. Not exactly unbiased news and he is far from a specialist. Now for some data from a far more legitimate source... Marini and Fan (1997). The Gender Gap in Earnings at Career Entry, from American Sociological Review vol. 62

"gender differences in family structure account for virtually none of the [wage] gap"

"Occupational and industrial placement uniquely accounts for 42 percent of the gender gap in wages, and gender differences in measured worker characteristics account for 30 percent of the gender gap in wages. ... this finding indicates that the gender gap in wages at career entry arises much more from external influences that place women and men in different jobs than from differences in individual characteristics such as career preparation, family structure, and aspirations."

Sure as hell sounds like discrimination to me.

The Math Ninja said...

I am not going to stay home with my children because I don't get paid enough. I am going to stay home with my children because I want to. I do not do 66% of the housework. I do about 55%, and even that can be argued as too high some days. I know discrimination exists, but I do not think it is in the majority of people.

If women want to close the gender gap, is seems from what Braveharte said that we need to choose 'better' jobs. I mean it really doesn't matter what a school consouler says. If you don't wanna go into that field don't. From my experience, I have never been told to do something easier or different because I'm a woman that has completely changed my life. I probably could have done architectual engineering, but that would mean that I would work longer hours than teaching, have to travel, and possibly not have as easy of a time leaving and reentering the work field when it was child time. So I chose teaching. Very easy to do those above listed things with.

I know this is a lot of "I did..." and "I think..." and not a lot of "research says..." or "Mr. So-&-so says..." but just because its research or someone said it doesn't mean it's true. At least where I work, a male teacher makes the same salary as a female teacher with the same experience and masters level credit.

Ookami Snow said...

Julia, from the same study that you sited:
"Data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Labor Market Experience indicate that the gender gap in earnings at career entry delined [sic] from 74.8% to 85.1% among whites & from 82.9% to 85.2% among blacks over the period studied."

So in ten years (which was the scope of the study) the gap has closed 10%, and since it has been ten years since then it is quite plausible to believe that the gender gap could have closed another 5%. And if women get paid 95% of men, it is quite possible that the gap is due to a woman sense to raise a family, where a man has a sense of supporting his family. I think that gender discrimination is down and on its way out.

Braveharte said...

I do not disagree that gender discrimination is down. I doubt that anyone would contest that. I don't think it is at 95% yet, but I hope that it will be soon. I think that it is an issue that we need to continue to monitor though to maintain fairness. Interestingly, I read a study that said that women with higher math skills earned the same as men. Not sure why that is, but it's interesting.

As far as counselors, I had a counselor tell me that I shouldn't take Chemistry because it was "too hard" while saying nothing to my male friends in the class about it. Aside from counselors, society in general has socially prescribed jobs for men and women. That's why it is hard for men to be nurses and hard for women to be architectural engineers. No one in particular is preventing them from doing that job, but society often puts a lot of pressure (sometimes unconscious)on people to stay within their gender roles. These gender roles are so prescribed that people's brains process them instantly while non-conforming roles take much longer to process. Men and women should not be confined to their gender roles.

We should not expect all women to choose family life. That's not what some women want. They deserve the same pay as men. In fact, all women deserve the same pay for doing the same amount of work with the same qualifications. The women who do choose to stay with their family that is fine. Men who choose to stay with their family should be allowed to as well. Employers should allow more flexibility for all families, both men and women. In Sweden both parents get paid leave after the birth of a child. They also allow flexible more hours for both parents. Children need both parents.

Most women say that they do 50% of the housework, but when researchers calculated actual hours of housework that they did, the breakdown was 66%. When men did more than 33% of the housework, they said they were doing too much. I'm not saying that this is neccessarily the case with you Nicole, but a general trend in society. Remember that your experiences are also not neccessarily the experiences of all women.

The Math Ninja said...

I agree with you Julia. I know that my experiences are not the same for all women, but it shows just some women. I guess one reason I don't really think the gender gap is a big problem is because I feel like I've never really been down by it. But I know some have. Glad it's declining and hopefully it doesn't decline so much that it reverses. :)

Big Red Lance said...

We can argue stats back and forth all day, but the point is this, the wage gap has more to do with free choices made by free individuals than it does discrimination.

Julia, If large-scale discrimination against women was really happening as badly as you say it is, then those companies would most certainly be hurting.

As an employer, their #1 goal should be to hire the most qualified, most capable people for each position -- regardless of gender. If the "Company X" discriminates by hiring less-qualified men over more-qualified women, fine. Let them. "Company Y" will be smart and hire the right people for the job. Company Y will have better people in charge. Company Y will make better decisions, have better service and will make more money.

Company Y will crush Company X.

The free market of employees and employers is working well here. The system is fine. The last thing we need to do is get government involved to help "fix" the problem. That's when the real trouble begins.

The solution here is less government, not more.