G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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Hanna Rosin is several years late in acknowledging that the “77 cents to the dollar” gender pay gap myth is fantasy, but finally writing about it at Slate Double X is worth documenting:
The big differences are in occupation and industry. Women congregate in different professions than men do, and the largely male professions tend to be higher-paying. If you account for those differences, and then compare a woman and a man doing the same job, the pay gap narrows to 91 percent. So, you could accurately say in that Obama ad that, “women get paid 91 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.”
The point here is not that there is no wage inequality. But by focusing our outrage into a tidy, misleading statistic we’ve missed the actual challenges. It would in fact be much simpler if the problem were rank sexism and all you had to do was enlighten the nation’s bosses or throw the Equal Pay Act at them. But the 91 percent statistic suggests a much more complicated set of problems. Is it that women are choosing lower-paying professions or that our country values women’s professions less? And why do women work fewer hours? Is this all discrimination or, as economist Claudia Goldin likes to say, also a result of “rational choices” women make about how they want to conduct their lives.
Rosin has been coming around on some issues, and her final sentence will test the patience of her sisters at Double X: “And in that more complicated discussion, you have to leave room at least for the option of choice—that women just don’t want to work the same way men do.”