“Cut the crap about the gender pay gap”

That is the title of this piece in the Left-wing British zine spiked online by Joanna Williams, a lecturer in higher education at the University of Kent. Here is the money shot:

A gender pay gap, albeit one that is rapidly decreasing, still exists; but the good news is that when occupation, contracted hours and most significantly age are taken into account, it all but disappears. In fact, the youngest women today, even those working part-time, are already earning more each hour than men. We need to ask why this is not more widely known and question the motives of those who seem so desperate to cling to a last-ditch attempt to prove that women remain disadvantaged. We should be telling today’s girls that the potential to do whatever job they want and earn as much money as they please is theirs for the taking, rather than burdening them with the mantle of victimhood.

The emphasis is mine. I know Jacques has dealt with the pay gap canard many times on this blog before (“Yes, women earn less than men but it’s not a case of unequal pay for equal work. It’s a case of unequal pay for unequal work.“), but it is still worth asking why politicians and so-called feminists are still beating such an obviously dead horse.

Politicians, especially anti-market ones, can use the pay gap to gain votes and hurt their rivals. This is an easy one.

Feminists are a horse of a different color, though, largely because there are so many variants of feminism out there (I am feminist in the sense that I think women are people, just like the old bumper sticker says!). Again, some of the peddling of this myth in feminist quarters is due to Left-wing animosity against markets, and some of it is just women in their thirties trying to remember what it was like to be in college.

Another reason might simply be economic. If an individual can get away with playing the victim in a business setting, why would she not do so? That is to say, if the rules are set to reward “playing the victim,” or if the rules were made several decades ago in order to combat an injustice (whether real or perceived), the most logical thing to do would be to play along with such rules.

The pay gap is therefore a political problem, not an economic one, and political solutions tend to be ones gained from obfuscating or ignoring outright the relevant facts of the matter.

The political undertones of the pay gap are exemplified by this 1995 paper (h/t Dr A) by two academic sociologists whose empirical work justifies Dr Delacroix’s and Dr Williams’s arguments (“it’s not a case of unequal pay for equal work”). In the conclusion of the paper, though, the sociologists go on to suggest that more legislation is needed to account for the overall pay gap. Why? Because men tend to find work in fields that pay more than women, and men don’t have vaginas with which to push out babies. In the minds of the sociologists, then, the best thing to do to ameliorate a non-existent problem (the pay gap that does not account for occupation, age, or hours worked) is to pass legislation that will somehow create more female engineers out of thin air (hello double standards, or hello decline in quality education).

h/t Mark Perry

8 thoughts on ““Cut the crap about the gender pay gap”

  1. Very frustrating discussing this sometimes. I have a vendor who is Jewish. I believe her and her husband own the company. Excellent customer service, great product. Friendly as hell. Normally, Jewish = Democrat, but she hates Obama, hates liberal policies and Big Government. Refreshing. But on this ONE topic, we disagree on. She will not let go of the meme that women are paid less than men. I have sent her articles, studies, blog posts and she does not reply, but only on that topic. On other topics, and political cartoons, I always get an engaging or funny response, and she often sends articles and cartoons to me as well. I hate to say she is blinded by the hype precisely because she is a woman, but I cannot think of any other reason for her resistance. Luckily, I do not believe she is a one issue voter, so she will probably still join the side of Liberty…but still…frustrating.

  2. “… the youngest women today, even those working part-time, are already earning more each hour than men …” This may point to another “gap” closing soon: the “too few women at CEO level gap”. Because, arguable, these today’s (male) CEOs come from a time when “the youngest MEN earned more then the average woman their (entry) age”. But this is the same with all affirmative actions: there even seems evidence, though contested, that affirmative action on racial grounds may hurt the advancement of those who are the receiving end of it. “… more female engineers out of thin air …” – The gender mainstreamers and those who sympathize need to begin to read the neurological research that pioints to certain differences between men and women that will likely -if “evolution” does not change things- make women be more prone to become nurses, interpreters, social workers etc. rather than engineers or quantity surveyors. There are fields where things may change because men and women are on a level playing field, like becoming judges or journalists.

    • All good points Maureen, thank you.

      I think the incredible gains that women in the West have made over the past hundred years is a great thing, of course. That’s why I thought Dr Williams’ point about empowerment and victimization was worth highlighting.

      The big issue for me, aside from the Left’s political attacks on business in the name of gender equality, is whether or not this equilibrium of wages between men and women has to do with removing institutional barriers to women that had been in place for centuries, or whether or not this equilibrium of wages has to do with government legislation.

      My money is on the former, but trying to put together a research project on this topic would be career suicide.

  3. “My money is on the former, but trying to put together a research project on this topic would be career suicide.”

    Pfft. That’s what tenure is for.

    • Great point, though sometimes playing the potential libertarian-in-academia victim card sounds like a much better option than putting my money where my mouth is. 🙂

  4. For the record since my name has been invoked: I too think that women are people. (And the woman who has owned my property fro 38 years is not holding a gun to my head as I admit this!)

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