The Equal Pay Day Fraud

From Mark J. Perry:

The American Association of University Women (AAUW), along with the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE), are major participants in the feminist propaganda machine that mobilizes its forces every April and engages in statistical misrepresentations to publicize the annual feminist holiday known as Equal Pay Day. Last April, AAUW executive director Linda D. Hallman sent a mass email that made this verifiably false statement (emphasis added):

Think about it: Women have to work almost four months longer than men do to earn the same amount of money for doing the same job. What’s more, we have to set aside a day each year just to call the nation’s attention to it.

Hallman’s statement is a statistical fairy tale because it’s based on the false assumption that women get paid 23% less than men for doing exactly the same work in the exact same occupations and careers, working side-by-side with men on the same job for the same organization, working the same number of hours per week, traveling the same amount of time for work obligations, with the same exact work experience and education, with exactly the same level of productivity, etc. In other words, the AAUW, NCPE, progressives, and gender activists falsely assume that employers all across America are using coupons like the one above to get a 23% wage discount for every woman they hire, and it’s that rampant, unjust and blatant gender discrimination that is the culprit behind the gender pay gap.

For example, Sen. Gary Peters (MI-D) said at this time last year that (emphasis mine): “Today, April 14th marks Equal Pay Day, the date by which women have made up for the wage discrimination they suffered during the previous year.” That’s complete statistical nonsense.

The reality is that you can only find a 23% gender pay gap by comparing raw, aggregate, unadjusted full-time median salaries, i.e. when you control for NOTHING that would help explain gender differences in salaries like:

  1. Hours Worked: The average man working full-time worked almost two more hours per week in 2014 compared to the average woman, see my analysis here.
  2. Type of Work: As I reported a few days ago, men represented 92.3% of workplace fatalities in 2014 (and the male share of job-related deaths has been consistently that high in every previous year) because men far outnumber women in the most dangerous, but higher-paying occupations like logging, mining and roofing that have the greatest probability of job-related injury or death. In contrast, women, more than men, show a demonstrated preference for lower risk occupations with greater workplace safety and comfort, and they are frequently willing to accept lower wages for the greater safety and reduced probability of work-related injury or death.
  3. Marriage and Motherhood: a) single women who have never married earned nearly 94% of male earnings in 2014 (but that does not control for anything else like hours worked, age, experience, education, occupation, children, etc.); b) more women than men leave the labor force temporarily for child birth, child care and elder care, and c) women, especially working mothers, tend to value “family friendly” workplace policies more than men, according this Department of Labor study.

Most economic studies that control for all of those variables conclude that gender discrimination accounts for only a very small fraction of gender pay differences, and may not even be a statistically significant factor at all. For example, as Andrew Biggs and I pointed out in a 2014 WSJ op-ed:

In a comprehensive study that controlled for most of the relevant labor market variables simultaneously—such as that from economists June and Dave O’Neill for the American Enterprise Institute in 2012—nearly all of the 23% raw gender pay gap cited by the UUAW can be attributed to factors other than discrimination. The O’Neills conclude that, “labor market discrimination is unlikely to account for more than 5% but may not be present at all.”

On Equal Pay Day, when groups like the AAUW and NCPE point to a 23% unadjusted gender pay gap and demand that the pay gap be completely closed, what they are really saying is that they want women to:

  • Work longer hours on average like men do;
  • Work in riskier, less safe occupations like logging and commercial fishing like men do where the chances of getting injured or killed are much greater;
  • Work in more physically demanding occupations like farming, construction, roofing, logging and working on oil rigs, where they’d be working alongside men outside in 100 degree weather in the summer and below zero weather in the winter;
  • Accept fewer jobs in family-friendly workplace environments like teaching elementary school that coincide with their children’s schedules (with summers off, etc.), and accept more jobs in less family-friendly workplace environments like being an over-the-road truck driver or being an oil field worker.
  • Take less time off, or no time off, for child birth and child care to minimize their time away from the labor force that might affect their earnings.

Bottom Line: Those who publicize Equal Pay Day and demand that the unadjusted 23% pay gap be reduced to zero are unknowingly really advocating that men and women play completely interchangeable roles in the labor market and identical roles in their family responsibilities; and that’s an outcome I don’t think most women (or men) really want. As the Department of Labor concluded in 2009, “The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.” They also concluded that “the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action.”

As I concluded on my recent related post, once we adjust for all of the factors that contribute to the raw difference in pay by gender, Equal Pay Day actually probably fell close to December 31 of last year. Or maybe the first week of January…. but NOT the second week of April. Women should be embarrassed by the economic myth that is annually perpetuated on their behalf by Equal Pay Day, which suggests that gender discrimination in the labor market burdens them with 14 additional weeks of work to earn the same income as their male counterparts earned the previous year – when that’s not even remotely true.



It infuriates me that Barack Obama, our supposedly responsible, supposedly honorable leader, stands in front of the country and repeats, with histrionic assuredness, the widely discredited pablum that women earn 3/4 of what men earn for the same work:

“You know, 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, Mr. Obama, you are an embarrassment.

Wage Gap

From Carrie Lukas:

Tuesday is Equal Pay Day—so dubbed by the National Committee for Pay Equity, which represents feminist groups including the National Organization for Women, Feminist Majority, the National Council of Women’s Organizations and others. The day falls on April 12 because, according to feminist logic, women have to work that far into a calendar year before they earn what men already earned the year before.

In years past, feminist leaders marked the occasion by rallying outside the U.S. Capitol to decry the pernicious wage gap and call for government action to address systematic discrimination against women. This year will be relatively quiet. Perhaps feminists feel awkward protesting a liberal-dominated government—or perhaps they know that the recent economic downturn has exposed as ridiculous their claims that our economy is ruled by a sexist patriarchy.

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.

Yet if you can accept that the job choices of men and women lead to different unemployment rates, then you shouldn’t be surprised by other differences—like differences in average pay.

Feminist hand-wringing about the wage gap relies on the assumption that the differences in average earnings stem from discrimination. Thus the mantra that women make only 77% of what men earn for equal work. But even a cursory review of the data proves this assumption false.

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.

Should we celebrate the closing of the wage gap? Certainly it’s good news that women are increasingly productive workers, but women whose husbands and sons are out of work or under-employed are likely to have a different perspective. After all, many American women wish they could work less, and that they weren’t the primary earners for their families.

Few Americans see the economy as a battle between the sexes. They want opportunity to abound so that men and women can find satisfying work situations that meet their unique needs. That—not a day dedicated to manufactured feminist grievances—would be something to celebrate.