Obama talks a lot about equal pay for women and pay equity, but what is his record?
Government records show that despite the Democratic National Convention’s early focus on salary equality for women, President Barack Obama has consistently paid his own female staffers less than men who perform similar or identical duties.
The convention is Obama’s show, but Tuesday night in Charlotte belonged to Lilly Ledbetter. The failed lawsuit plaintiff whose name was ultimately attached to a wage parity law Obama signed in 2009 — the first bill to win his signature — addressed the convention, and at least five other speakers raised her signature issue. One was the president himself.
A video of Obama played in the convention hall at around 9:35 p.m. Tuesday, in which he observed that women in the U.S. workforce are “still earning just 77 cents for every dollar a man does.”
“Overall,” he said, “a woman with a college degree doing the same work as a man will earn hundreds of thousands of dollars less over the course of her career.”
Such a gender pay gap, he claimed, “weakens families; it weakens communities; it’s tough on our kids; it weakens our entire economy.”
But data from the Obama White House’s 2011 annual report show that female staffers there earn a median salary 18 percent lower than that of men.
And nearly four years ago, at the height of the 2008 election season, Scripps Howard syndicated columnist Deroy Murdock wrote that female staffers in Obama’s U.S. Senate office, too, were shortchanged.
“Obama’s average male employee earned $54,397,” Murdock determined from online Senate salary records. But the future president’s “30 female employees … [earned] $45,152, on average.”
But there is a broader question that needs to be answered. Are the differences in the salaries between men and women due to discrimination, or are they due to the different choices that men and women make?
Here’s a popular article by Carrie Lukas, writing in the Wall Street Journal. (H/T Mary)
The unemployment rate is consistently higher among men than among women. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 9.3% of men over the age of 16 are currently out of work. The figure for women is 8.3%. Unemployment fell for both sexes over the past year, but labor force participation (the percentage of working age people employed) also dropped. The participation rate fell more among men (to 70.4% today from 71.4% in March 2010) than women (to 58.3% from 58.8%). That means much of the improvement in unemployment numbers comes from discouraged workers—particularly male ones—giving up their job searches entirely.
Men have been hit harder by this recession because they tend to work in fields like construction, manufacturing and trucking, which are disproportionately affected by bad economic conditions. Women cluster in more insulated occupations, such as teaching, health care and service industries.
[…]The Department of Labor’s Time Use survey shows that full-time working women spend an average of 8.01 hours per day on the job, compared to 8.75 hours for full-time working men. One would expect that someone who works 9% more would also earn more. This one fact alone accounts for more than a third of the wage gap.
Choice of occupation also plays an important role in earnings. While feminists suggest that women are coerced into lower-paying job sectors, most women know that something else is often at work. Women gravitate toward jobs with fewer risks, more comfortable conditions, regular hours, more personal fulfillment and greater flexibility. Simply put, many women—not all, but enough to have a big impact on the statistics—are willing to trade higher pay for other desirable job characteristics.
Men, by contrast, often take on jobs that involve physical labor, outdoor work, overnight shifts and dangerous conditions (which is also why men suffer the overwhelming majority of injuries and deaths at the workplace). They put up with these unpleasant factors so that they can earn more.
Recent studies have shown that the wage gap shrinks—or even reverses—when relevant factors are taken into account and comparisons are made between men and women in similar circumstances. In a 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30, the research firm Reach Advisors found that women earned an average of 8% more than their male counterparts. Given that women are outpacing men in educational attainment, and that our economy is increasingly geared toward knowledge-based jobs, it makes sense that women’s earnings are going up compared to men’s.
That makes sense. For example, I think that most women find careers like teaching and nursing more fulfilling than careers in automobile repair or computer programming. And some fields just pay more than others because of supply and demand. But if you look at what people of both sexes earn for the same degrees, the same years of experience, in the same jobs, and correct for time off for child care, and so on, then there is no pay gap. It’s a made-up crisis designed to trick women into thinking that they are victims, and that they need government to save them from the bad, bad men. And most single women do fall for this rhetoric, as a recent poll showed. I think it’s especially true for fatherless women and women who make poor choices in relationships, which is why fiscal conservatives and libertarians need to promote marriage, family and fatherhood more. These things are all related.
There is a gender pay gap – but not the one you might expect
However, there actually is a gender pay gap in the largest cities in the country – but it’s not a pay gap that favors men.
Well, first of all, it’s important to note for those who didn’t know that salary differences are purely the result of individual lifestyle choices, not the result of sexist discrimination. Who says? The US Labor Department, that’s who.
Economists who have studied the pay gap have observed that numerous factors other than discrimination contribute to the wage gap, such as hours worked, experience, and education. For example, Professor June O’Neil has written extensively about how time out of the workforce, or years spent working part-time, can reduce future pay. Likewise, economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth, in her book Women’s Figures, has written about the decisions that women are more likely to make to choose flexibility, a friendly workplace environment, and other nonmonetary factors as compared to men.
Recognizing the importance of unbiased research on the pay gap, the Labor Department recently contracted with CONSAD Research Corporation for a review of more than 50 existing studies as well as a new economic and statistical analysis of the pay gap. CONSAD’s Report, which was finalized on January 12, 2009, found that the vast majority of the pay gap is due to several identifiable factors and that the remainder may be due to other specific factors they were not able to measure.
CONSAD found that controlling for career interruption and other factors reduced the pay gap from about 20 percent to about 5 percent. Data limitations prevented it from considering many other factors. For example, the data did not permit an examination of total compensation, which would examine health insurance and other benefits, and instead focused solely on wages paid. The data were also limited with respect to work experience, job tenure, and other factors.
The Labor Department’s conclusion was that the gender pay gap was the result of a multitude of factors and that the “raw wage gap should not be used as the basis for [legislative] correction. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”
It turns out that the pay gap, which was always entirely due to lifestyle choices, is now working against men. Here is Carrie Lukas again, writing in National Review this time, explaining the latest research on the pay gap.
She cites the radically left-wing Time magazine:
…according to a new analysis of 2,000 communities by a market research company, in 147 out of 150 of the biggest cities in the U.S., the median full-time salaries of young women are 8% higher than those of the guys in their peer group. In two cities, Atlanta and Memphis, those women are making about 20% more. This squares with earlier research from Queens College, New York, that had suggested that this was happening in major metropolises. But the new study suggests that the gap is bigger than previously thought, with young women in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego making 17%, 12% and 15% more than their male peers, respectively. And it also holds true even in reasonably small areas like the Raleigh-Durham region and Charlotte in North Carolina (both 14% more), and Jacksonville, Fla. (6%).
It would have been nice if Romney could have explained all of this during the debate, but there are some things that are dangerous to explain when you are running for President.