To Women Voters:

I take the liberty to point out a small number of issues that I am told are important to women. I do it because I used to be a respectable social scientist and because I have been retired for ten years which gives me plenty of time to stay informed.

Women voters have been misled for years by propaganda explicitly pointed at them. It wasn’t necessarily a conspiracy though but a kind of uncritical cultural convergence. Many of those who spread misinformation believe it themselves. So, in a way, they are morally innocent. That’s no reason to follow them down the wrong path, and down the cliff. Below are five topics about which you may have received false information that has been repeated over and over until it sounded true.

The first female president

There is a widespread feeling among American women that it’s time finally to elect a female president. For some, it’s a sort of symbolic restitution. I can’t speak to this because I am only a man. Other voters, both females and males, seem to think that a female presidency would result in significant improvements in the lives of American women. A relevant reminder: Eight years ago, Americans elected the first African-American president. For many, it was a vote filled with hope for positive change in the area of race. After two Obama administrations, almost eight years later, it’s time to take stock. However you evaluate the Obama administrations in general, two facts stand out. First, race relations in American have not improved (to say the least). Second, African-Americans are not better off than they were eight years ago. In fact, they are slightly worse off economically. (My own position on having a woman President is straightforward: I would vote for Stanford Professor Condoleeza Rice, for President, in a heartbeat.)


The 1973 Roe vs Wade decision made abortion on demand available throughout the territory of the United States. Candidate Trump has provided a list of potential nominees to the Supreme Court . Some of those nominees are pro-life. This raises the question of what would happen in the unlikely event that Roe vs Wade were overturned by a new Supreme Court. You may have been led to believe that abortion would become illegal. That’s simply not true. Legislation on abortion – if any – would revert to the individual states as the Constitution requires (same as murder, theft, sequestration, and spitting on the sidewalk). The likelihood that all fifty states would forbid abortion on demand is simply zero. The likelihood that half of them would is also zero, I believe. The worst case scenario is that abortion would become geographically inconvenient. (In case you wonder, I believe, just like former President Bill Clinton, that abortion should be legal, safe, and rare.) There is no chance that not electing Mrs Clinton will make abortion illegal.

Pay disparities

We have been told that women received interior pay for equal work for so long that it has almost become the truth. Even my local female Republican candidate for Congress uses this line. It’s not the truth. The reality is that women receive unequal pay for unequal work. There are various reasons why this is. (A broader treatment of this matter is on my blog and accessible through these two links.) In fact, paying women unequal pay for equal work has been against federal law for more than thirty years. Doing it is an invitation to costly class action suits. It’s probably important not to vote for someone on the basis of “facts” that are not facts at all. And then, there is the issue of why anyone would mislead you so badly. (Myself, I am going to vote for the Republican lady candidate for Congress although I think she should check her facts better.)


Candidate Clinton has said clearly that she is is for open borders. This may come from a generous heart. Yet there are too many people from poor countries who want to come to the US to live. Even, if all of them are good people, the USA is like a lifeboat: If too many climb aboard, the boat capsizes and everybody drowns, the original passengers (Americans as well as existing immigrants) and the newcomers (would-be immigrants). To remain a decent society, a generous society, the US has to somehow restrict admission. Open borders is not a possible policy, it’s a dangerous fantasy. (In case you are wondering: I am an immigrant myself, so is my wife.)


Candidate Trump bragged – thirteen years ago – about making crude sexual gestures. There has not been a single formal complaint or any charge brought against him on this account. That’s although – unlike former Pres. Bill Clinton at the same stage – he has temptingly deep pockets, the kind of pockets that would give fighting courage to any moderately aggressive attorney. Candidate Trump often also has a filthy mouth, and he occasionally uses sexist language, that’s a fact. Candidate Clinton is good friends with and approves of, and patronizes artists who routinely sing of perpetrating gross sexual violence on women (including in the last days of her campaign). They too use obscene words. They do so routinely, every time they perform. (I don’t use such language myself but my wife of forty years does, another story, obviously.)

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An Alternative to the Presiding Theory of Privilege

Recently, debate about systemic privilege has been omnipresent, as fodder for political campaigning and millennial-dominated critique of culture. Peggy McIntosh first wrote about white privilege in a checklist that ultimately offered representation as privilege, e.g., if you can open a newspaper and see your race, if you learn about your civilization in the history books, etc. This classification has mostly been lost to simplifications that pervert its sensible message. Everydayfeminism, one source of modern dogma in line with women’s studies courses, defines privilege as a “set of unearned benefits given to people who fit into a specific social group.” This transliteration is still an interesting exercise in understanding social dynamics and has general applicability; however, when applied to issues such as the gender pay gap (whether the figure is the oft-cited 79%, 93%, lower or higher), often for a privilege of this categorization to be genuinely manifested every single individual involved has to be knowingly sexist, including the victim of the unlevel playing field.

For an example: Joanna is a secretary at a large business firm. She discovers her coworker Jim gets a larger paycheck for the exact same job, and they both take equal days off. She learns she is making $.79 to his one dollar. The federal Equal Pay Act and the 1964 Civil Rights Act make this illegal. Now, for Jim’s male privilege (the unearned benefit of larger pay) to continue:

  1. Joanna has to not report it to her boss or the authorities
  2. Jim has to not report it to his boss or the authorities
  3. Her boss has to stay intentionally sexist and not correct the disparity

Only if all of these conditions are met will the situation remain unrectified. This workplace privilege, built by a narrative that pay is different for the exact same job, relies on intentional sexism or surrender of all parties — it loses sight of subtlety completely. The current privilege hypothesis is also not very useful because different groups receive de facto and de jure benefits in different circumstances — no single sexual, racial or gendered group dominates every aspect of hierarchy, though certainly a specific Caucasian demographic dominates most of it. The hypothesis is primitive in this sense, and it is also imprecise in that, because of political correctness, it entirely misses a vital part of the nature of “privilege,” more on that later.

Perhaps in recognition of the failures of this undeveloped adaptation, some modern feminist writers have employed the 1990’s idea of kyriarchy that more adequately describes the modality of experience through position in stratified society. Elisabeth Schüssler Florenza’s kyriarchal system sought to analyze layers of objective privilege overlapped in social milieu. Yet although all feminists cite privilege as an everyday occurrence, the few social justice warriors that have heard of kyriarchy can rarely be relied on to understand its nuanced applicability, and fewer still can appreciate the algorithmic complexity to determine actual systems of privilege. It has been simplified, again, into white, black, male, female, cis- and transgender, and so on. Intersectional feminism — a linguistic attempt to avoid the egalitarian label — still alleges an all-encompassing subordination, and then seeks to recognize exchanges throughout other identity types that further enforce the oppression. This ideological branch could have been one of legitimate merit, except that again its white- and androcentric view of privilege, though broadly qualifiable, disallows universal theorizing. (Producing wildly contingent knowledge.) The system lacks usefulness because its analysis, as interpreted by modern feminists, is embedded into its definition. Abstract discussion of privilege is unachievable.

Talking about privilege with intent to reach further conclusions is not only impossible, but it also feels like a competition. Moving past the caricatures of race, gender, sex or wealth: the only group that suffers on every single front is the physically or mentally disabled, and their representation is horribly lacking, their image pitied, and advocates are few and far compared to organizations for other identities. However, if you want to be completely astute, the only group of people not privileged is those that are not customarily good-looking. It’s the conventionally attractive or wealthy people that harness power, when its not built on pure work, inheritance or entrepreneurialism. Charisma is a part of this. People that are typically thought of as ugly never get the advantage and people of orthodox beauty standards often dominate the masses.  This conclusion can be arrived at from pure observance, and holds more empirical strength than the speculative nature of current privilege theory that consistently ignores the concept of individual cases.

Privilege is underdetermined by beauty and humans, per contemporary psychological knowledge, divine facial attractiveness from symmetry. Plato thought that we find things beautiful when we infer virtues from gazing upon them: bridges can summon feelings of strength; sunsets, of harmony; our souls recognize our own need for these stabilities. It isn’t remarkable that humans find symmetry beautiful and then ergonomically categorize faces into attractive and unattractive. (Nor does it mean, however, that asymmetric faces are not beautiful. Aesthetics would reveal more truths in this topic.) Applying this idea collapses the perceived white hegemony, as beautiful people from any walk of life are flocked to from the average-looking majority. Beauty is power like sex is power. When privilege is observed it will be rarely be in the hands of the unattractive.

To extrapolate with the question of the largest burden of oppression and privilege: Where does racism actually come from? It’s irrational, typically xenophobic, and ubiquitous across the continents, as well as millennia old. This theory could be interpreted to suggest that racists hold unreasonable views about other skin colors and ethnicities because of a lack of physical attraction, which coincides with an inability to relate familially and romantically. Systematic racial disparity and racist paradigms would then be caused by hyper-localized, non-diverse beauty standards. It could also be deducted that those of the natural default (without racist tendencies) are capable of nondiscriminatory and cosmopolitan attraction. Now here we see a definite connection between sexuality and bigotry, two contingents only meaninglessly juxtaposed by the mainstream privilege theory.

In conclusion, instead of challenging the conjecture of authoritative gendered dominion, progressives and activists could more benefit from challenging society’s standard of beauty. The standard that tells equally men and women what is and isn’t desirable. The advantages of injecting truth into the politics of self-worth are critical for a society concerned with honest evaluation and individual progress. The individual’s own conception of self-beauty is usually either bolstered by inflated confidence or hampered by poor self-image and has no overlap with how objectively beautiful they are, beauty that is uninvolved from ethnicity, sex or gender.

A note: I imagine myself to be, and from my life opportunities it would seem I am, decently attractive, so in either conviction of privilege I’m decently privileged, as a young white male or as a decently attractive person. Hopefully this grants more credibility to my writing, as if I was unattractive, it would probably come off as tormented and envious. Fortunately I have the chutzpah to stand on the line and propound these ideas regardless. Measures should be taken to highlight the identity group that will forever go without privilege or authority: the ugly people.

“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

Around the Web

  1. The Globalization of Apartheid from anthropologist Keith Hart. I have a critique (as well as lots of praise) in process.
  2. Kapital for the Twenty-First Century: A review of Thomas Piketty’s new book by James K Galbraith.
  3. The Many Problems with “Equal Pay”: Legal scholar Richard Epstein brings his usually clarity to the table
  4. Taxes Are Much Higher Than You Think: A great op-ed from Nobel Prize winner Edward Prescott and UCLA economist Lee Ohanian in the Wall Street Journal
  5. An open letter to President Obama from a prominent center-Left economist (and Democratic Party member): Give Us Back Our Statistical Data
  6. Scratching the Surface: Some proposals for campaign finance reform from a law professor guest blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy


Unequal Pay: For Women Only – Part Two (There really is a Part One.)

Editor’s note: this old essay by Dr Delacroix might be worth reading in tandem with this article. It’s titled “Sasquatch and Liberal Academe.”

I agreed in Part One of this essay that there may be a small average pay difference of five percentage points between employed American women and men. It’s possible that even after you take into account all the facts mentioned before, lower education, less seniority, lesser presence in well paid industries, women, on the average, earn 95 cents on men’s one dollar. (That’s also on the average.) I agreed that this may be evidence of discrimination against women in the work place. But is it the obvious explanation? Is it the only explanation? Is it even credible at all?

There is a reason this is an essay for women only. I want to help you evoke forbidden topics, topics never or rarely approached in the social sciences or in the newspapers. It’s time to muster everything you know about your sisters, ladies; we are going into taboo territory!

I am not a woman myself but I have had occasion in my 30-year teaching career to observe hundreds of women. I have also observed women in various workplaces in two countries. What follows is not (NOT) supported by any study.* It’s a thinking exercise about what I suspect you know. See if it jibes.

Female students obtain better grades than male students in college. However, they don’t get to good grades the same way. Males take more risks, on the average. In my observation, for example, they are many times more likely to wing it than their female fellow students. In general (on the average), males are more forceful, much more likely than women to demand their due (even when nothing is due to them at all).

If you don’t ask for a raise, often, you don’t get one. If you are timid about organizing, you will earn less than those who are well represented by unions. Is it possible that women, on the average…. (Finish the sentence) and that this would account for the remaining possible five percentage pay differential between women workers and their male counterparts. Is it possible?

I have personally seen a few cases of discrimination against women workers. They consisted in creating work conditions that would make it difficult for the targeted employee to produce a work performance that would make raises likely. (Poisoning the water.) As I said, I have only seen a few cases perhaps fewer than ten. Every single time, the discriminator was a female supervisor. Perhaps, my limited experience is atypical. Or is it? What do you think? Do women in positions of power ever persecute other women? Often? Seldom? Never?

Now, I want to talk briefly about productivity in a manner that is especially proscribed in polite society. I think I have observed hundreds of time that women in a group with an assigned task spend large amounts of time in activities that seem unrelated to the task. Women tend to socialize at length where it’s not called for. The socialization often includes plotting against one another and excluding some. Perhaps the socializing is a kind of disarmament conference without which work cannot even proceed. Again, those are a subjective observations possibly based on women who are somehow different, not representative, different from the average. What do you think?

Here is what I observed when teaching, specifically. Most of what follows is based on teaching the same, clearly elite class every winter for 22 years. The classes were small and they involved important group projects. The projects were done mostly in class. The sample these 22 classes give us is obviously biased, unrepresentative. It’s biased because it was composed of students markedly superior to the run-of-the-mill student. The women in that class were probably more productive than most female undergraduates (and than most male undergraduates as well).

Here is what I saw: Insofar as it’s observable, groups of males engaged in a collective task, achieved the same results as women with considerably less time expenditure than women. It’s as if a straight A cost guys three hours, and women nine hours. (Those numbers are subjective, of course. I am holding myself back; I wouldn’t be surprised if the gap in time investment were wider.)

Is it possible that my observation is not in some way nullified by bias? Is it possible that what I think I have observed in connection with the time cost of doing something is somehow related to the earlier observation that women tend to socialize when doing so does not appear to contribute to the accomplishment of the task ? You decide.

My informal observations are surely not (NOT) equivalent to a formal, rigorous study. This does not mean that I should keep quiet about them. If they don’t ring a bell with your experience, ignore them. If they do, maybe it’s worth thinking about alternative explanations to the widespread belief in the general existence of uncalled for, arbitrary discrimination against female workers. Keep in mind that, at this point, we are talking about a five percentage point differential; we are considering 95 cents on the dollar, not the president’s 77 cents.

Now, let me switch angles of vision a little bit. The actual, residual difference between women’s and men’s remunerations after you have accounted for the obvious factor, (Part One of this essay.) is so imprecise that it leaves open the possibility that women earn more than men in the same jobs.** Again, I am frankly wading into the subjective and I am inviting you to wade in with me.

During thirty years of teaching, there were about ten times when I fielded female students’ complaints that they were discriminated against in some fashion just for being female. That was always in my role as an adviser rather than as a classroom teacher.

Every time, I would ask the complaining student if it were not possible that she was angry because her male counterparts seemed to be getting grades they did not deserve according to her judgment. I will let you guess what answers I received to this particular query.

Then, I would look the student straight in the eyes and I would propose the following hypothetical:

Suppose you are completely right, suppose the instructor discriminated against you simply for being female, let me ask you: Has it ever happened in your whole life that you got an undeserved pass just because you were a girl?

I did not have the presence of mind to keep exact tabs, of course, but I can’t remember a single time when the conversation did not dissolve into a smile!

Adding subjectivity to subjectivity, doing it consciously, I would guess that male instructors by and large prefer female students. They are less likely than males to be grossly disruptive; they are nicer; they are more polite; they smell better. (It matters in a room of forty in June.) Female students also often flirt with the teacher in unconsciously charming ways. (Disclosure: I am married to a former student.)

Would these behaviors tend to cause male instructors to treat female students negatively? Women instructors?

Maybe this is all my own private self-delusion. Maybe this preference for women employees does not exist in the workplace, as a far as male supervisors and male decision makers are concerned. Or maybe, I am not that deluded, or maybe males in positions of power have a built-in preference for female subordinates as much as they do for female students. How surprising would that be?

Take my case, for example: My mother was a woman, my daughter is a woman, my granddaughter is female, my sisters are female. They all love me, without exception. I addition, I am married to a woman. She cooks for me, very well, almost every day; she does my laundry (even when I don’t want her to); I talk with her more than I do with anyone else on earth. When times are tough, she is always, every single time, in my corner. I don’t want to get X-rated but it’s also true that 100% of my sexual satisfaction, in my whole life, was somehow connected to women. (Like many California men, I also have an ex-wife somewhere but she does not cause me any grief. I am lucky; she just moved on instead of exacting a just revenge.)

Is my experience different from that of most or all men? Did they have male mothers? Were their sisters guys? Are they all married to other men who love them and spoil them? Is a very high percentage homoerotic? You see my point.

Is it possible also that a lifetime bath of estrogen predisposed me to a positive bias toward women or, is it more likely that all these good treatment left me prejudiced to the point where….

…to the point where I would take care- with someone else’s money, most of the time – to pay female employees only 95 cents when I pay their men colleagues a full dollar for the same work?

Or, alternatively, is it possible that my unchecked, unthoughtful, mindless tendency is to treat them better and to pay them more, say, $1.05 to males’ $1.00 ?

When you take a sketch and you take the trouble to draw in all the details, often suddenly, you come to see that you misunderstood or mis-perceived the meaning of the original sketch.

Three big questions to finish.

If the good research (that I did not do) confirmed my speculation that women may earn on the average one dollar and five cents ($1.05) to men’s one dollar would there be big demonstrations to protest the disparity? Would anyone have the nerve to initiate legislation to close the pay gap by force? What do you believe?

Discrimination against women in any way, shape or form has been illegal in this country since 1964. Is there any one who thinks that if legislation has been inoperative for fifty years, unable to correct (alleged) pay discrimination against women, more legislation under a weakened president, imposed on a deeply divided nation will now solve the problem? This is a real question. Please, answer it in your own mind.

And if it were possible to pay women less for equal work, with the same quality of workplace attention, the same performance, the same results, isn’t it true that a rational hiring policy would require discrimination against men? If this were true, all employers would try to limit labor costs by hiring only women until there were no more women available for hiring in the relevant pool. Or is there some magic male solidarity that trumps everything, including business competition and the search for profits?

By the way, the last time I looked, in the USA, women had most of the wealth and most of the votes. (If it’s not true anymore, I don’t worry; someone will surely correct me.) Why don’t women, on the average, use their votes and their financial resources to erase the pay differential, to turn the 77 cents into at least one dollar?

Here is my stake in all this. First, I detest government policy based on lies and on deviousness. Second, my daughter is rearing her own daughter alone. The last thing I want is that my adored granddaughter should be cheated because her mother is being short-changed on her paycheck merely for being a woman. Are other men different? Am I a brilliant and inimitable exception?

Some stories have been told so long and so often that people don’t think of subjecting them to even the slightest of reality checks. The 77 cents on the dollar story does not stand up to scrutiny. It’s a purely political story designed to keep alive an artificial sense of grievance in an important segment of the electorate.

The 77 cents on the dollar story exploits women. It’s insulting.

A good tale to finish, the second funny thing that any feminist ever said:

Ginger Roger was Fred Astaire’s dancing performer for twenty or thirty years. The couple dominated movie screens in the forties and fifties and beyond. Fred was more famous than his partner, Ginger. At one point, irritated by the fuss over her partner, Ginger is said to have declared,

“I did everything Fred did backward and in high heels!”

* Such studies are practically proscribed in academia. If they were not, their findings would be boycotted by major journals. Political correctness reigns where it shouldn’t exist at all. Nevertheless, there are a few brave academic researchers who venture where no one is supposed to tread. Most are women.

** In the early 2000s, black women earned more, on average than black men. The case I pose to you is thus not completely absurd or imaginary. I don’t know if this disparity continued after the crisis beginning in 2008. It does not matter. I just wanted to impress on you that women sometimes earn more than men.

Unequal Pay: For Women Only – Part One.

American women who work for wages or a salary, on the average, earn 77 cents when American men earn one (1) dollar, also on the average.

You have to be careful of averages. They are not naturally vicious but they are often used to deceive. That is, people routinely overestimate themselves and don’t slow down enough to understand what they are seeing and hearing when an average is mentioned.

Here is a little practice exercise: Suppose all women who lack education beyond high school quit work completely. (They might go on welfare or they might find hard working husbands, maybe currently illegal immigrants – Not a bad idea actually, if I say so myself!) If this happened, what would become to the 77 cents on the dollar?

(The answer is several paragraphs below.)

Consider also that “on the average” means, of course, that there are many women who earn more money than many men, women in government, for example. Take the female toll-takers at the Golden Gate Bridge, for example. They earn about $100,000 a year for very low-skill work. They thus earn much more than male cable-television technicians who do things most of us don’t even know enough to think about. (There are female cable technicians of course, but that’s not the point, right now.) That’s compatible with the 77 cents on the dollar figure.

That women earn on the average 77 cents when men earn a full dollar speaks of rampant and rank discrimination against women where it matters most, the workplace. Or does it?

Below are some relevant facts that all of President Obama’s economic employers know. I mean that the facts are so well-known that it’s inconceivable that they don’t know them.

  • Fact: On the average, working women have less education and less seniority than men. That’s on the average.

As it happens levels of pay, in many industries depend largely on seniority (rightly or wrongly). Access to the best paid jobs in a given industry also depends much on level of education. Access to superior and well-paid jobs also often depends on achieving seniority. That’s a double-whammy on low education!

Answer to the question near the beginning of this essay: If women who had no college dropped out of the workforce, female workers would, on the average, suddenly have higher educational achievement. Then, the average pay of women nation-wide would go up. If all the women with no college education dropped out of the workforce, the 77 cents on the dollar would immediately disappear. I don’t know what the resulting number would be; it might be 80 cents on the dollar, or 90 cents on the dollar. What is certain is that it would be a higher, better number.

Repeat: If all the low-skill jobs requiring a modest level of education disappeared all of a sudden, if all the women holding such jobs lost their jobs, the average pay of women, including as compared to me, would immediately go up.

This is not some sort of foggy speculation, it’s an arithmetic certainty.

Similarly, if more women in the workforce had high seniority, the average pay of women nation-wide would also be higher than 77 cents on men’s dollar. Here too, it’s a mathematical certainty although I don’t know by how much the figure would change. This is all by way of remembering what averages mean.

  • Fact: Working women concentrate in economic sectors where wages are historically low.

That’s low wages for both men and women. Sometimes, there are no understandable reason why pay is low in such sectors. Often it’s a sort of historical accident connected with an early union activity in those sectors of the economy. Sometimes there are good direct reasons for the high pay in sectors where women are rare. Blue collar work on oil platforms and commercial fishing are both examples of activities where few women are found. They are also dangerous activities. They are also physically strenuous activities. In those two particular sectors, pay is much higher than it is say, in the health industries, or in retail where many women areemloyed. This means that both men and women employed in fishing and on oil, platforms earn more money than either men or women in many other industries.

The average lower pay of women nationally is at least in part the result of their low participation in these highly paid industries. If there were equal numbers of women in those high-pay sectors as there are men, the national average pay of women would be higher than 77 cents on men’s dollar.

  • Fact: Among those who work forty hours a week or more (“full time”), men work much longer hours than women on the average.

It’s often the case that, other things being equal, those who work longer hours earn more money than those who work shorter hours. They earn more for the total number of hours they work. (They may also be promoted faster but that’s not my point here; one thing at a time.) Incidentally, this is true both for base workers, such as assembly line workers and sales associates, and for so-called “exempt personnel,” personnel in supervisory and management positions. The mechanisms are different, union rules, formal pay scales and government-mandated requirements (think overtime pay), in one case, alleged “merit pay,” on the other. The results are similar: Work more; earn more.

Women earn less money than men on the average than men because they spend less time at work than men do.

Now, close your eyes and let me describe two imaginary workers. One has 25 years of seniority and three years of post-high school education. The same worker is employed in mining. Over the course of a year, this worker puts in 46 hours a week on average.

The second worker has one year of junior college and has been on the same job for eight years. That worker’s occupation is in one of the health industries. Calculated over one year, this second worker puts in 40 hours plus twenty minutes a week on average.

Now, keep your eyes closed and forbid yourself from stereotyping. You don’t know the sex of either imaginary worker. Keep in mind that they may well be of the same sex, for example (for example). One or the other, or something else…

Which of the two fully employed workers do you think earns the most money in one year in actuality?

Which do you think should earn the most money according to your own standard of fairness?

You get my drift?

It turns out that when studies compensate for these important factors, American women’s remunerations are about the same as men’s. That’s still on the average. I wouldn’t be too surprised if you could find a female fisherman with 25 years seniority and a doctorate who earns less money than her husband, a high school dropout who works in a candle shop. The relevant numbers are simply too small to affect comparisons of national averages.

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.
It’s worth asking why women would heap upon themselves so many of the factors that result in comparatively low pay? I mean low education, low seniority, and working in less generously paying sectors.

You probably have your own hypotheses (plural) about why this is. Let me help with an additional fact:

  • Fact: Women who are not married, have never been married, and have no children earn as much as men. Are you really surprised?

Many other studies confirm what we all already know: Women are the primary caretakers of both home and children by a long, long shot.

The care of children interferes vigorously with women’s ability to reach for higher paid jobs, and with their attention to their paid work, and to their ability to work long hours. It’s that simple.

Women workers fail to accumulate seniority because they quit working earlier and more frequently than men. They tend to move in and out of the workforce; that’s inimical to the accumulation of seniority, of course.

Women workers have less education than men workers, on the average, for slightly (only slightly) more complex reasons. At the lower end of the pay-scale women who work outside the home are not equivalent to men workers in general. For one thing, many low-paid working women, and increasing numbers of them, are single women raising their children alone. But we know that women with lower educational status are more likely to find themselves in that situation than women with more formal education.

Married women with children have on the average, more education than single women with children. Such married women are less likely to be in the workforce at all . Instead, their husbands are. Their husbands’ higher education and seniority enter into the national statistics. Their non-working wives’ also high numbers don’t because they are not in the labor force, precisely.

If all married women joined the labor force, the gap in education between employed men and employed women on average would shrink. It might even vanish altogether.

That would raise women’s average pay nation-wide, although the fate of poor ly educated, low seniority, women employed in badly paying sectors would not improve one bit.

If all married women joined the labor force and stayed in it, employed women’s seniority would equal men’s after a while. That would raise women’s average pay nation-wide.

The pay of women with low seniority would….
(Complete the sentence; this is a test!)


Those who claim the 77 cents on the dollar figure are comparing apples and oranges.

Those in government who do this know the facts. Why are they doing it?

Now, once you have taken account all facts above, the things we already know about different ways in which women and men deal with work, women on the average still earn a little less than men. The difference is much smaller than the difference between 77 and 100 (77 cents and one dollar). Nevertheless, as I write, I think it’s possible to argue that this small difference – maybe something like 5 percentage points – proves some degree of pay discrimination against women.

By the way, I don’t play down at all this kind of pay differential. If you gross $30,000/year, 5% more would be $1,500. Even with standard deductions, that’s a round-trip ticket to someplace, even someplace interesting.

In Part Two of this essay, I will leave the domain of what’s well know, of what the president ought to know, and I will take you with me on a trip of honest, frank speculations about women’s work.

Don’t forget to come back. The best portion is yet to come!

Tech. note: Anyone is welcome to challenge any of the assertions above. Here are the rules I play by: I you give me a general reading assignment, I won’t do it. It’s too easy to waste someone’s time on a wild goose chase. If you don’t bother to say, “Read this because it shows ‘this assertion of yours…’ to be false ,” don’t expect me to make the effort either. Also, evidence that does not come from a respected refereed journal is unlikely to make much of an impression on me.