Pay Equity: Hiding the problem behind rhetoric

It is a matter of liberal orthodoxy that women in the United States make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. That number is repeated so often that it has become a sort of mantra when discussing gender discrimination. I’ve always been a bit suspicious of the number because it violates my primary rule for any statistic cited by folks at the ends of our ideological divide. When “Liberals” or “Conservatives” quote a statistic and don’t provide clarifying context, you can be sure they are trying to bend the statistic to their own ideological purposes. And the “77 cents for every dollar” quote fits into that category.

First, let me state clearly that the statement “Women make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men” is absolutely true. It is not subject to dispute. Where it does get fuzzy is when we don’t say what that means. When I say it is “absolutely true”, that’s what I mean. If you take the average wage earned by a woman and the average wage earned by a man, the woman will make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. It is an absolute measurement and lacks nuance. For this reason, it makes a great weapon AGAINST any argument for pay equity.

The President and his cohorts like to hang their hat on the statistic that women “make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.” In and of itself, this is accurate. In actuality, it is a lie by omission. Obama would have you believe that women working the same hours, in the same career, and with the same educational background are somehow being short-changed and discriminated against. They are not, and I can prove it. When adjusting for quantifiable variables, there is almost no significant difference in pay.

– Jason Scheurer,, The 77-cent Gender Wage Gap Lie

Mr. Scheurer admits the statistic is true then tells us that President Obama was lying. How does he get away with it? By telling us what the President meant even though President Obama didn’t say any of those things. And there is the trouble with the equity narrative. It allows opponents of pay equity to put up a smokescreen that is very effective with the average American. They scream that the statistic is based on false assumptions and are able to point to misleading advertising by supporters to bolster their case. They say it loud and they say it often.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
From the website of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

What Mr. Scheurer and his cohorts fail to tell you is that their definition of “no significant difference in pay” is about a 9 percent difference.

Now, if 9 percent doesn’t seem like a lot to you, consider receiving an 9 percent pay cut. Now project that over your entire working life. Every raise you receive would be 9 percent less. When you change jobs, your starting salary would be 9 percent less. Your contribution (and your employer’s matching contribution) would be 9 percent less with a corresponding decrease in overall return. This is the reality for the almost half of the American workforce that is female. And in four out of ten families, that female is the primary breadwinner. That 9 percent has a very real and very wide effect on that family and this economy. As women increase their share of the workforce, the effect of this 9 percent difference will become more pronounced. It will drive overall wages down (I suspect it has but don’t have the resources to prove it), and stagnate our economy (ditto).

We all have a stake in making sure that everyone is paid fairly for the work they do. Our economy depends on it.

Let’s talk about the 9 percent difference and get that addressed. NOW. Pay Equity is a problem. It is a large problem. It might not be a 23 cent problem but it is a 9 cent problem. So, tell me again why it’s OK to pay a woman 9 percent less than a man for the same work?

– Eliot