April 3 2012
This month, feminist groups celebrate Equal Pay Day, a pseudo-holiday based on the idea that women are systematically underpaid, making only about three-quarters of every dollar a man makes for the same work. women, they claim, have to work until april to make up for last year’s “wage gap.”
Americans appropriately recoil from the idea of a sexist economy that short-changes hard-working women. If it were true, it would be outrageous.
Fortunately, however, this commonly repeated claim is false. There is no evidence that women are routinely paid a fraction of what men make for the same work, or that discrimination drives statistical differences between men and women’s earnings.
The Department of Labor statistic underlying the “wage gap” claim simply compares a full-time working man’s median wages with those of a full-time working woman, ignoring the many factors that affect earnings, including number of hours worked, industry, years of experience, and education, to name but a few. When such information is taken into account, the wage gap shrinks, and in some cases even reverses.
Feminist groups disserve women by promoting the false idea that the U.S. workplace is overwhelmingly sexist. It encourages unnecessary meddling from the federal government, which could limit women’s job opportunities and workplace flexibility, and discourages women from fully pursuing their ambitions.
Women are better off understanding that it’s the decisions they make— not systematic sexism—that determine how much they earn.