Kansas City Star columnist E. Thomas McClanahan continued his attacks on Equal Pay Day -- the day the average woman's salary catches up to the average man's from the previous year -- calling it an exaggeration of the extent of workplace discrimination because “women and men will always make somewhat different choices.” However, studies have shown that, even when taking into account a myriad of factors, an unaccounted for gap still exists between women and men's salaries.
Two years ago, McClanahan attacked Equal Pay Day by claiming that “much of the supposed wage gap comes from life choices” and the fact that “men work longer hours than women.” He concluded by recommending that “Equal Pay Day should fade quietly into history.” In this year's iteration of his attack on Equal Pay Day, which takes place on April 9, McClanahan revived the same attacks as in the previous piece and dismissed the gender wage gap as an inaccurate measure:
What many people don't know is that this [the wage gap] is a cherry-picked number and the idea that it's an accurate measure of discrimination is grossly misleading. While workplace unfairness hasn't been banished, studies that correct for such factors as life choices and family situation show that discrimination today is minimal at best, and in some cases has reversed -- with women making more than men.
Because women generally work fewer hours than men, annual wages is a very poor measure of gender discrimination.
McClanahan's attacks leave out some key details about the wage gap. According to statistics from the Labor Department, in 2012 women made 81 percent as much as male workers, on average. As Meghan Casserly of Forbes explained, comparing men in all jobs with women in all jobs is “easy to laugh off as misleading,” but when looking at individual professions, where presumably workers have similar skill sets, the gap is even higher -- especially in the financial and legal professions.
Regression analysis allows us to analyze the effect of multiple factors on earnings at the same time. Controlling for occupation, college major, hours worked per week, and many other factors all at once, we found that college-educated women working full time were paid an unexplained 7 percent less than their male peers were paid one year out of college.
Even 7 percent of lost income could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost wages for the average female worker. As the Center for American Progress found, over a 40-year period, the average female worker could lose about $434,000 due to this wage gap. With a majority of women becoming the primary breadwinner for their families, entire households are feeling the effects of the persistent wage gap.
It's unfortunate that McClanahan's consistent attacks on the gender wage gap fail to reflect the real issue here -- as women continue to be paid less, men, women, and children all lose.