The Gender Pay Gap And The 77 Cents Myth

The rallying cry of “choice” is a popular one in the liberal world. Proclaim that you’re the side fighting to keep choice is someone’s life, and you have the attention of those seeking a leader. After all, choice is a good thing, right? And choice should be rewarded as we want it to be rewarded, regardless of other factors?

Case in point is the issue of women receiving lower wages than men in America’s workplaces. President Obama and others cry foul for the employer’s choice to do such a thing and exclaim: “This isn’t 1958—it’s 2014.” In The State of the Union address on January 28 of this year, the president said:

“You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.”

He, as well as other liberals, heavily rely on this statement and “equal pay for equal work” to point out the so-called discrimination in today’s American workplace. Surely an employer choosing to pay a female employee less than a comparable male employee is absurd and should be remedied. But is it really true? Is this what actually happens?

According to both Politifact here and here, and also, those statements are exaggerated at best. Both of these sites, and the data they cite, indicate women are not necessarily paid less for the same job, instead they earn less when comparing yearly earnings, and not even necessarily the same hours. Now that greatly changes the dynamics of the discussion, does it not? Gloss over some specific items, and the liberals have a field day with the “fact” that women earn less. Never mind that this is not necessarily for the same type of work or same number of hours as a man; less is bad, and adds fuel to the directed accusation towards Republicans that they are waging a war on women.

Back to choice.

There is a reality in the modern workplace which is often times overlooked. This is the reality of educational choices, career choices, and family choices and how they affect the pay which is received by each gender. This so-called “occupational segregation” pushes men and women into, many times, choosing different career paths. Why is this? Clearly, there are careers which attract a specific gender, for whatever reason. These attractions guide the educational choices of college students. Upon entering the workforce, a standout point which affects how a career will go is the family.

Like or not, women are the ones who take maternity leave and do a majority of the child care in the home. An overwhelming majority of elementary school teachers are female because of factors such as corresponding with their child’s hours during school and during summer break. Even an executive level female agrees that motherhood plays an understandably large role in wage difference, and rightly so. Liberals conveniently look past these truths when surveying the overall picture of pay in this country.

A March 20 Washington Times article discussing President Obama’s desire for equal pay for women brought up the uneven pay scale among his own White House staff:

“The president didn’t mention that women in his White House earn less, on average, than men. A review by McClatchy Newspapers in January found that women overall at the White House are paid an average 91 percent of what their male counterparts earn — $84,082 for men, $76,516 for women. White House officials have said the study shouldn’t have looked at overall pay and instead compared employees in the same positions. For example, all press assistants earn $42,000 per year, regardless of gender.”

This declaration by White House officials is a desire to look as much of an equal opportunity employer as their boss, President Obama, promotes. However, the desire to refute any semblance of inequality strongly supports the very facts presented earlier which shows that similar jobs – in the America workplace as a whole – are not where different pay occurs. The different pay occurs in earnings as a whole, and that can be attributed to other factors.

So, President Obama’s own mantra appears even more flimsy than before.

The largest factor here is choice. The choice that leads women to pursue careers which would give them the flexibility of motherhood. The choice by employers to employ them with that flexibility in mind.

And the President’s choice to make an issue out of that which is not.