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State, national columnists

Statistical frauds distort equal-pay debate

By From page A9 | April 20, 2014

The “war on women” political slogan is in fact a war against common sense.

It is a statistical fraud when Barack Obama and other politicians say that women earn only 77 percent of what men earn – and that this is because of discrimination.

It would certainly be discrimination if women were doing the same work as men, for the same number of hours, with the same amount of training and experience, as well as other things being the same. But study after study, over the past several decades, has shown repeatedly that those things are not the same.

Constantly repeating the “77 percent” statistic does not make them the same. It simply takes advantage of many people’s ignorance – something that Barack Obama has been very good at doing on many other issues.

What if you compare women and men who are the same on all the relevant characteristics?

First of all, you can seldom do that, because the statistics you would need are not always available for the whole range of occupations and the whole range of differences between women’s patterns and men’s patterns in the labor market.

Even where relevant statistics are available, careful judgment is required to pick samples of women and men who are truly comparable.

For example, some women are mothers and some men are fathers. But does the fact that they are both parents make them comparable in the labor market? Actually the biggest disparity in incomes is between fathers and mothers. Nor is there anything mysterious about this, when you stop and think about it.

How surprising is it that women with children do not earn as much as women who do not have children? If you don’t think children take up a mother’s time, you just haven’t raised any children.

How surprising is it that men with children earn more than men without children, just the opposite of the situation with women? Is it surprising that a man who has more mouths to feed is more likely to work longer hours? Or take on harder or more dangerous jobs, in order to earn more money?

More than 90 percent of the people who are killed on the job are men. There is no point pretending that there are no differences between what women do and what men do in the workplace, or that these differences don’t affect income.

During my research on male-female differences for my book “Economic Facts and Fallacies,” I was amazed to learn that young male doctors earned much higher incomes than young female doctors. But it wasn’t so amazing after I discovered that young male doctors worked more than 500 hours more per year than young female doctors.

Even when women and men work at jobs that have the same title – whether doctors, lawyers, economists or whatever – people do not get paid for what their job title is, but for what they actually do.

Women lawyers who are pregnant, or who have young children, may have good reasons to prefer a 9 to 5 job in a government agency to working 60 hours a week in a high-powered law firm. But there is no point comparing male lawyers as a group with female lawyers as a group, if you don’t look any deeper than job titles.

Unless, of course, you are not looking for the truth, but for political talking points to excite the gullible.

Even when you compare women and men with the “same” education, as measured by college or university degrees, the women usually specialize in a very different mix of subjects, with very different income-earning potential.

Although comparing women and men who are in fact comparable is not easy to do, when you look at women and men who are similar on multiple factors, the sex differential in pay shrinks drastically and gets close to the vanishing point. In some categories, women earn more than men with the same range of characteristics.

If the 77 percent statistic was for real, employers would be paying 30 percent more than they had to, every time they hired a man to do a job that a woman could do just as well. Would employers be such fools with their own money? If you think employers don’t care about paying 30 percent more than they have to, just go ask your boss for a 30 percent raise!

Thomas Sowell is an author, economist and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Thomas Sowell


Discussion | 9 comments

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  • mike kirchubelApril 20, 2014 - 9:11 am

    "If you think employers don't care about paying 30% more than they have to,..." maybe that's why they are paying women less. What a load of sowell.

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  • Dave ShreeveApril 20, 2014 - 10:17 am

    Typical knee jerk "progressive" reaction. Don't argue the stats, demean the messenger. What a load of kirchubel. Obama's White House had to admit that it pays women 88 cents on the dollar compared to men, and for all the same reasons (education, experience, time out from working to raise children, etc.) everyone else brings out for the so called wage disparity. To quote Dr. Sowell, "when you look at women and men who are similar on multiple factors, the sex differential in pay shrinks drastically and gets close to the vanishing point. " Also remember that equal pay laws have been on the books for over 50 years now.

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  • mike kirchubelApril 20, 2014 - 11:19 am

    You agree that even the White House pays women less than men and then, using right wing "logic" claim that unequal pay doesn't exist. What a load of sowell. Thanks for the laugh.

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  • Jason KnowlesApril 20, 2014 - 12:41 pm

    Mike, I rarely agree with Sowell, but speaking statistically (that is, through data) he is right. Politifact even rated this talking point as "mostly false." From Politifact: "The 77-cent figure compares all male and female workers, regardless of their occupation. Whether due to a historical legacy of discrimination or because of personal choice, women and men are disproportionately represented in certain jobs. For instance, women dominate the ranks of receptionists, nurses, and elementary and middle-school teachers, among other fields. Men are disproportionately truck drivers, managers and computer software engineers. "If more men tend to be employed in occupations that pay higher wages both to men and women, then men may enjoy an overall earnings advantage even if all women in each occupation receive exactly the same hourly pay as the men who are employed in the occupation," said Gary Burtless, an economist with the Brookings Institution. Indeed, if you look at men and women working in the same professions, the pay gap is much smaller (though for most professions, it doesn’t disappear entirely)."

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  • http://theunhivedmind.com/wordpress3/2013/12/30/aipac-suppresses-report-highlighting-mossad-involvement-in-911-attacks/April 20, 2014 - 10:56 am

    In General Google hoover institute AIPAC see AIPAC suppresses report highlighting Mossad involvement in 9/11 ... I am researching whether The Hoover Institute is in the pocket of AIPAC... another War Monger NEOCON support group? The Hoover Institute? But having said this I do support the Conservative view of the also NWO controlled liberal Left's attempt to divide us... To keep us all divided is the key to success for the International Bankers... Your Liberal left "War on Women" Campaign is a Blatant PSYOP.... WAKE UP LADIES Do not fall for this.... and Remember the Conservative values of Judeo Christian religion is what has given any true respect and status to Women... For men to treat Women with respect as partners in marriage... and Jesus forgave Women in error, did not condemn them as not being worthy of forgiveness and salvation like some other religions.

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  • http://www.aipac.org/act/attend-events/policy-conference/videos/2013/speeches/bidenApril 20, 2014 - 11:22 am

    In General Google... joe Biden aipac ... see Vice President Joe Biden - Aipac ....... It would seem to me to not line up with the 10 Commandments Old Testament Torah and New Testament Love your Neighbor as Yourself... Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.... To Have the NEOCONs ( with top Democrat help like the Clintons/Biden ) The British Banker Controlled MI5/6 and the Israeli Mossad Saudi and Pakistani Intelligence ....set up 9/11 to carryout war on innocent Muslims, even if they do tend to be violent and destructive among themselves. What happened to Thou shalt not kill... Thou shalt not steal... Thou shalt not covet...'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.' Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord Your God in Vain.... Doing this under the cover of being a Christian Nation... A Jewish Nation.... ? Obama continues this Legacy. So tell us Exactly what explosives/cutting charges/nanothermite/ ?other charges did you use on World Trade Centers 1 and 2 ( now replaced by One World Trade Center ) what about building 7 and even building 6? How did you pilot by remote control the planes into the buildings? Did you switch planes... Did they land and other planes take off that actually hit the towers... or were the original planes at least one or two downed in the Atlantic? Mossad you have BLOWN YOUR COVER. Same thing with the top Heirarchy of the Republican and Democrat parties.... A missle hit the Pentagon ... NO AIRCRAFT WRECKAGE at the pentagon. Congress should call for an immediate ( but temporary ) cessation of the Executive's command of the Military and an end to all ongoing war operations... Make the Rothschild's use only their European Operatives... NOT USE us/The US anymore to kill innocent people.

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  • Unfortunatly PeopleApril 20, 2014 - 11:56 am

    I have always wondered why actually when you look at it that the Illuminati made it so OBVIOUS to anyone who looks... Even the outing of the True Nature of 9/11 can be turned to International Banker advantage.... because at some point they plan to take America down... and now we are THE BAD GUY in the World... Remember the Illuminati play both sides of every issue and are experts at setting countries up for condemnation like they are trying to do with Libya, Syria, Ukraine/Crimea/Russia, Iran.

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  • rlw895April 21, 2014 - 12:41 am

    Before StR spoils another discussion, let me get my licks in. I don't see anything wrong with Sowell's argument except whether he is fairly representing Obama in how the "77%" statistic is cited and used. Obama's first act as president was to sign a wage discrimination bill, as I recall. It was to address a real problem of discrimination and the court's refusal to permit relief by overly restrictive procedural barriers. That may not change the 77%, but it will give an individual person the ability to fight for justice, and that's enough. Let's look for where Obama has misrepresented the 77%; that seems to me to be the issue.

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  • AnnaMarie CharleboisAugust 26, 2014 - 4:37 pm

    Very informative and fascinating, very well written as usual sir!

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