Wash. Times falsely asserted "occupation, experience, seniority, education and hours worked" are "ignored by those citing the wage gap"

››› ››› CHRISTINE SCHWEN

In an editorial about the pay gap between male and female workers, The Washington Times falsely asserted that "the relevant factors that affect pay -- occupation, experience, seniority, education and hours worked -- are ignored by those citing the wage gap." The editorial also asserted that "women tend to place a higher priority on flexibility and personal fulfillment" than on higher pay. In fact, a GAO study found that a pay gap persists even when controlling for work experience, seniority, education, industry, occupation, race, marital status, and job tenure.

In a July 14 editorial about the gender gap among American workers, The Washington Times asserted that "the relevant factors that affect pay -- occupation, experience, seniority, education and hours worked -- are ignored by those citing the wage gap." The editorial also claimed that many women "freely choose to be the reason for their own 'unequal' pay," later adding that many women "tend to make their homes, families or hobbies a priority." The Times went on to assert that "women tend to place a higher priority on flexibility and personal fulfillment" than on higher pay. The Times' assertion that "those citing the wage gap" ignore "the relevant factors that affect pay" is false. As Media Matters for America has previously noted, a U.S. General Accounting Office (now called the Government Accountability Office) study found that a pay gap persists even when controlling for work experience, seniority, education, industry, occupation, race, marital status, and job tenure. Additionally, a 2007 study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) found a wage gap among college graduates both one year after graduation and 10 years after graduation. The gap persisted even after controlling for several factors, including "[w]orkplace flexibility, ability to telecommute." The study, "Behind the Pay Gap," also suggested that a lack of workplace flexibility itself was an issue that needed to be addressed and proposed several methods to increase flexibility in a chapter titled "What Can We Do About the Pay Gap?"

The GAO study, released in 2003, found that after controlling for "work patterns" -- including "years of work experience" and hours of work per year -- as well as differences in "industry, occupation, race, marital status, and job tenure," "women earned, on average, 80 percent of what men earned in 2000." The GAO stated that it was unable to determine whether the remaining gap was "due to discrimination or other factors that may affect earnings," such as an effort to "trade off career advancement or higher earnings for a job that offers flexibility to manage work and family responsibilities." The AAUW study, conducted by researchers Judy Goldberg Dey and Catherine Hill, also controlled for "[w]orkplace flexibility, ability to telecommute," as well as other several variables including "occupation," "industry," "hours worked per week," "whether employee worked multiple jobs," "months at employer," and several education-related and "demographic and personal" factors, such as "marital status," "has children," and "volunteered in past year," and found that "the portion of the pay gap that remains unexplained after all other factors are taken into account is 5 percent one year after graduation and 12 percent 10 years after graduation. These unexplained gaps are evidence of discrimination, which remains a serious problem for women in the work force":

The pay gap between female and male college graduates cannot be fully accounted for by factors known to affect wages, such as experience (including work hours), training, education, and personal characteristics. Gender pay discrimination can be overt or it can be subtle. It is difficult to document because someone's gender is usually easily identified by name, voice, or appearance. The only way to discover discrimination is to eliminate the other possible explanations. In this analysis the portion of the pay gap that remains unexplained after all other factors are taken into account is 5 percent one year after graduation and 12 percent 10 years after graduation. These unexplained gaps are evidence of discrimination, which remains a serious problem for women in the work force.

Regarding workplace flexibility, Dey and Hill also found that one year after graduation, "[w]omen graduates are not trading lower earnings for flexibility or other benefits."

Dey and Hill also stated: "Research indicates that leaving the work force or working part time results in less work experience and diminished earnings potential" and separately that "[f]lexibility, meaningful part-time work opportunities, and expanded provisions for medical and family leave are important to help women and men better balance work and family responsibilities. Making gender pay equity a reality will require action by individuals, employers, and federal and state governments."

In their chapter on "What Can We Do About the Pay Gap?" Dey and Hill suggested several changes to increase flexibility in the workplace: "Encourage employers to offer high-quality part-time employment opportunities"; "Rethink using hours as the measure of productivity"; "Protect and Extend the Family and Medical Leave Act"; and "Increase women's employment options by supporting high-quality child care in conjunction with other family-friendly policies."

Dey and Hill also asserted that "[m]others are more likely than fathers (or other women) to work part time, take leave, or take a break from the work force," and therefore "[t]he gender pay gap among full-time workers understates the real difference between women's and men's earnings because it excludes women who are not in the labor force or who are working part time."

From the July 14 Washington Times editorial headlined "Fairness is not equality":

What the situation needs is a little common sense. All the relevant factors that affect pay -- occupation, experience, seniority, education and hours worked -- are ignored by those citing the wage gap. As a result, this inadequately researched viewpoint fails to consider the different roles that work tends to play in men and women's lives. In truth, thousands of women freely choose to be the reason for their own "unequal" pay. Many women have a good education and work full-time for 10 years or so. Over time, they tend to make their homes, families or hobbies a priority. Many women seek out a specialty or an employer that encourages balanced work and family life.

Surveys have also shown that women tend to place a higher priority on flexibility and personal fulfillment. Women tend to avoid jobs that require travel or relocation; they take more time off and they spend fewer hours in the office. The logic is not so complex that Mr. Obama and his campaign managers cannot come to the same conclusion. They are simply ignoring common sense so that Mr. Obama can advocate social engineering in the name of equality.

Posted In
Economy, Jobs, Wages, & Unemployment
Network/Outlet
The Washington Times
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