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Jewish World Review April 10, 2001/ 17 Nissan 5761

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports


Wage-gap equation is calculated on spurious assumptions

http://www.jewishworldreview.com --
GENDER feminists may as well go ahead and admit they're communists. It'll make things so much easier if we understand our terms.

By "gender feminist," I mean those who believe in equality regardless of obvious differences. "They" want equal outcomes, period. The rest of us - Normal Feminists and Other Great Americans - want fairness but understand that "gender" connotes differences and that equal outcomes aren't possible without draconian (read: communistic) government intervention.

In other words, "they" believe in equality even if it isn't fair; "We" dirty rotten capitalists, who sometimes come in female flavors, believe that a free market is fair. The pay-equity jihad is a case in point.

Those of you who've been busy making a living and upgrading your bomb shelters may have missed Equal Pay Day this past Tuesday (APRIL 3). I know, you were still nursing hangovers from celebrating Women's History Month and it slipped by. Not to worry; April's foolish days are entrenched and destined for sequeldom.

The now-annual Equal Pay Day was sponsored by the National Committee on Pay Equity, which contends, despite contrary research and common sense, that women still earn significantly less than men do. The exact figure seems flexible, but the latest is 28 cents less on the dollar.

Whatever the mythical amount, the wage-gap equation is calculated on spurious assumptions. To support their thesis, the equal-pay number-crunchers use the median wages of all men and all women in the workforce, regardless of age, educational level, occupation, experience or working hours.

Golly, you mean bosses earn more than assistants? And coal miners earn more than typists? And Ph.D.s earn more than high school dropouts?

Well, not in Cuba. And not here, if the NCPE is successful in pressuring Congress to enact corrective legislation. Keep an eye on Hillary "Hey, Love Your Flatware!" Rodham Clinton, that champion of open-market principles.

The real deal on the wage gap is that women and men who work comparable jobs generally earn comparable wages, plus or minus a few cents. The actual gap is closer to three cents on the dollar, according to independent and well-respected research.

A 1993 study by economist June O'Neill, using data from the Department of Labor's huge database (National Longitudinal Survey of Youth) and published in the Journal of Labor Economics, for instance, found that childless women age 27-33 earned 98 percent as much as their male counterparts.

This two-percent difference suggests that motherhood, not gender, is a more likely explanation of wage differences. Yet the NCPE contends that when women earn less, it's because they're women. Ergo, discrimination.

Never mind that workplace discrimination has been outlawed since the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Never mind, too, that a gender-based wage gap makes no sense. If women are so much cheaper to employ, why aren't companies dumping their male employees in favor of females?

The fact is, women and men of equal qualifications, experience and work hours are usually paid comparably. In instances where women earn less, nondiscrimination explanations often can be found. One that springs to mind: Women get pregnant and have babies, which leads them to make different choices.

Women who trade higher pay for flexible working hours to rear children aren't whining to congresspersons about equal pay. They're hiding behind their Wall Street Journals, hoping no one will notice they've placed more value on rearing well-adjusted kids than on shattering the alleged glass ceiling.

As economist Nancy Pfotenhauer, president of the Independent Women's Forum, put it, "Women make decisions all the time based on things other than salary - enjoyment of the job and ability to have time with their families."

Meanwhile, women are entering traditionally male-dominated fields at increasing rates and are being paid comparably, according to a new analysis by the Employment Policy Foundation. Whatever gap remains will adjust itself by the laws of supply-and-demand. Unless the NCPE has its way, in which case you can bid incentive - and the promise of the American dream - a Fidelista farewell.


JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.

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