NH Union Leader On Gender Wage Gap: “What Complete Hooey”

A New Hampshire Union Leader editorial attacked the gender pay gap as “complete hooey,” ignoring several studies that show a clear discrepancy in wages between men and women while dismissing the benefits of equal pay.

The February 9 editorial criticized New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan's decision to back an equal pay bill being considered by the state legislature, saying the gender wage gap is “complete hooey” and that “no serious scholar believes it.” The editorial instead claimed women's' life choices were the biggest reason for the gap:

A 2009 Labor Department study of the issue reached “the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action.”

That “multitude of factors” consists largely of life choices -- work hours, number of children, etc. For instance, Bureau of Labor Statistics data on full-time employees show that never-married women earn 95.8 percent of what men earn, but married women with children under 18 earn 76.3 percent.

The legislation would disallow pay secrecy policies that keep employees from discussing their pay with co-workers, making it easier for women to ensure they are being paid equally. Currently, employers are required to pay equal wages to men and women but can prevent employee discussion of compensation. As the National Women's Law Center explained last month, pay secrecy policies “can keep women in the dark about their pay, making pay discrimination nearly impossible to detect.” States like Vermont, New Jersey, and New Mexico have recently enacted this type of legislation, strengthening women's and workers' rights in their states.

A Fall 2013 report by AAUW explained that while personal choices, such as differences in men's and women's college majors or types of job pursued after college -- what the Union Leader cited as the reasons for wage disparity -- do account for some differences in wages, it doesn't explain the entire gap. For example, an AAUW study that examined the wages of men and women one year out of college and accounted for several factors -- college major, occupation, economic sector, hours workers, months unemployed since graduation, GPA, type of undergraduate institution, institution selectivity, age, geographical region, and marital status -- found that there was still an unexplained “7 percent difference” in their earnings. The occurrence of a wage gap has been backed by several studies.

New Hampshire, which has a higher wage gap than the national average, and the nation as a whole would benefit from closing the wage gap. As an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report pointed out in 2012, closing the wage gap just 50 percent would increase the GDP per capita annual growth rate by a projected 0.3 percent. And as economist Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute form Women's Policy Research, found, closing the gender wage gap could create a stimulus effect on the GDP of at least 3 to 4 percentage points in the United States alone.