And while we’re on the joint subjects of science and the SOTU…
The other night the president told quite a whopper in his State of the Union address. Namely, he revisited the myth that women in the workplace earn less than men in some absolute sense. He said, “Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.”
No, what’s embarrassing is that this claim — a leading battle cry in the left-manufactured “war on women” — has been so thoroughly debunked that even the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler in his fact check of the speech saw fit to challenge the assertion:
There is clearly a wage gap, but differences in the life choices of men and women — such as women tending to leave the workforce when they have children — make it difficult to make simple comparisons.
Christina Hoff Sommers, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute has a column on the wage disparity at the Daily Beast, where she writes:
The 23-cent gender pay gap is simply the difference between the average earnings of all men and women working full-time. It does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure, or hours worked per week. When all these relevant factors are taken into consideration, the wage gap narrows to about five cents. And no one knows if the five cents is a result of discrimination or some other subtle, hard-to-measure difference between male and female workers.
Sommers cites a study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce that highlights differences in the choice of college major among men and women. She presents these differences in a pair of companion lists that reflect earning power. The lists, which are reproduced below in table form, reveal that men outnumber women in all but one of the most financially rewarding majors. When it comes to the least financially rewarding majors, women outnumber men in all but one.
Sommers notes that these choices, which are freely made, partly drive the wage gap. “Early childhood educators and social workers,” she writes, “can expect to earn around $36,000 and $39,000, respectively. By contrast, petroleum engineering and metallurgy degrees promise median earnings of $120,000 and $80,000.”
The choice of majors, moreover, appears reflective of avocation. “Women, far more than men, appear to be drawn to jobs in the caring professions; and men are more likely to turn up in people-free zones. In the pursuit of happiness, men and women appear to take different paths.”
Glenn Kessler also gets down in the weeds in his critique of the 23-cent gender pay gap assertion. He notes that “the White House is using a figure (annual wages, from the Census Bureau) that makes the disparity appear the greatest. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, for instance, shows that the gap is 19 cents when looking at weekly wages. The gap is even smaller when you look at hourly wages — it is 14 cents….”
So why does the president persist in claiming that women receive roughly three-quarters of the money that men do for the same work, especially in the face of what Christina Hoff Sommers calls a “mountain of solid empirical research” that suggests otherwise?
“One possibility,” Sommers writes, “is that they have been taken in by the apologetics of groups like the National Organization for Women and the American Association of University Women.”
Whatever the explanation, as has been noted in this space before, there is one place in America where women earn substantially less than men: the Obama White House.
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