Fox Uses Debate Question To Obscure Gender Wage Gap

During the second presidential debate, a town hall participant asked how the candidates planned to fix workplace inequality, “specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn.” Fox News reporter Doug McKelway labeled this figure a “myth,” but research shows that even when adjusting for all variables known to affect earnings, women are consistently paid less.

Fox Gives False Impression That There Is No Gap Between Wages For Women And Men

McKelway: Statistic On Gender Inequality Is “A Myth That Has Endured For Years.” During the October 17 edition of Happening Now, McKelway aired a clip of a town hall participant in the presidential debate asking what the candidates would do to fix income inequalities in the workplace, “specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn.” McKelway called this figure a “myth” and did not explain that even after accounting for differences in employment, a wage gap exists:

McKELWAY: There was a lot of very, very loose playing with the facts last night. And not all of it was from the candidates. Let's start with this question that moderator Candy Crowley permitted. 

KATHERINE FENTON (town hall participant) [video clip]: In what new ways you do intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?

McKELWAY: Well, that 72 percent figure is a myth that has endured for years. The Census Bureau admitted as much last month. 

DAVID JOHNSON (Census Bureau) [audio clip]: We don't have a way of measuring equal pay for equal work. We try to compare the earnings of full-time, year-round work between men and women.

McKELWAY: In fact, Census data are just a rough measurement of all women's wages versus all men's wages without accounting for differences in the kind of jobs that they choose, oftentimes to accommodate the needs of their families. [Fox News, Happening Now, 10/17/12]

Research Shows Wage Gap Exists Even After Adjusting For Experience And Profession

AAUW: One Year After Graduation, “A 5 Percent Pay Gap Between Women And Men Remains After Accounting For All Variables Known To Affect Earnings.” An April 2007 report by the American Association for University Women (AAUW) titled “Behind the Pay Gap” conducted a regressive analysis of full-time earnings for men and women one year after graduation, and discovered a 5 percent pay gap between men and women. From the report:

Overall, the regression analysis of earnings one year after graduation suggests that a 5 percent pay gap between women and men remains after accounting for all variables known to affect earnings. Women who choose male-dominated occupations appear to earn more than do other women. Undergraduate majors in business and management, engineering, health professions, or public affairs and social services enhance both women's and men's earnings. [AAUW, April 2007]

  • AAUW's Study Took Into Account Numerous Factors, Including Hours Worked Per Week, Occupation, Industry, And Workplace Flexibility. AAUW listed the following “key variables used in [its] regression analysis”:


[AAUW, April 2007]

Institute For Women's Policy Research: “Women's Median Earnings Are Lower Than Men's In Nearly All Occupations.” From an April 2012 fact sheet from the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) that documents widespread gender wage disparity across occupations:

Women's median earnings are lower than men's in nearly all occupations, whether they work in occupations predominantly done by women, occupations predominantly done by men, or occupations with a more even mix of men and women. During 2011, median weekly earnings for female full-time workers were $684, compared with $832 per week for men, a gender wage ratio of 82.2 percent (Table 1; a gender wage gap of 17.8 percent). Added to the gender wage gap within occupations is the gender wage gap between occupations. Male-dominated occupations tend to pay more than female-dominated occupations at similar skill levels, particularly at higher levels of educational attainment. Tackling occupational segregation is an important part of tackling the gender wage gap.

The gender wage gap and occupational segregation--men primarily working in occupations done by men, and women primarily working with other women--are persistent features of the U.S. labor market. Only four of the 20 most common occupations for men and the 20 most common occupations for women overlap. Four of ten women (39.5 percent) work in traditionally female occupations and between four and five of ten male workers (44.5 percent) work in traditionally male occupations; only 5.8 percent of women work in traditionally male occupations and only 4.6 percent of men in traditionally female occupations. [Institute for Women's Policy Research, April 2012]

Even A Bush Administration Report Found That Otherwise Unexplained Wage Inequality Exists

Bush Labor Department: The “Adjusted Gender Wage Gap ... Is Between 4.8 And 7.1 Percent.” In January 2009, the Bush administration's Department of Labor published a report written for the department by CONSAD Research Corporation. While downplaying the existence of wage inequality, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor Charles E. James stated in a foreword to the CONSAD report that after controlling for several variables, there was “an adjusted gender wage gap that is between 4.8 and 7.1 percent.” [CONSAD Research Corp., 1/12/09]

CONSAD Report Took Into Account Occupation, Career Interruption, Industry Sector, And Other Factors. The report looked at the following factors in determining an adjusted gender wage gap: “occupation, human capital development, work experience, career interruption, motherhood, and industry sector.” The full list of factors consists of the following:


[CONSAD Research Corp, 1/12/09]

Fox And Other Conservative Media Have A History Of Obscuring The Gender Wage Gap

Conservative Media Attempt To Disprove The Wage Inequality Between Men And Women Fall Flat. As Democrats pushed for the Paycheck Fairness Act to address wage inequality between men and women, conservative media figures claimed that there is no real wage inequality because men work more hours than women and thus earn more. But studies have shown that an earnings discrepancy between men and women persists, even when accounting for a variety of factors, including hours worked. [Media Matters, 5/2/12]

Fox Attacked Democrats For Attempting To Deal With Gender Wage Inequality. Fox & Friends co-hosts attacked the Paycheck Fairness Act with Fox host Dana Perino, claiming the legislation is just a “distraction.” In fact, wage inequality is real: Study after study has found that women are paid less than men. [Media Matters, 4/30/12]

Stossel: It Is A “Myth” That “Women Earn Less” Than Men “For Doing The Same Work.” When John Stossel was an ABC News host, he claimed that it is a “myth” that “women earn less” than men for “doing the same work.” But numerous studies and data indicate that, on average, men earn more than women regardless of occupation. [Media Matters, 5/16/06]