In the spirit of Dr. Swift, AEI's Andrew Biggs concludes our "celebration" of Equal Pay Day, the bogus feminist holiday, with a modest proposal of his own to close the gender pay gap: ban stay-at-home mothers.
Biggs notes that yesterday progressives were out in full force citing the "fact" that women only 79 cents for each dollar earned by men. President Obama and Hillary Clinton were among those citing this "fact," which they almost certainly know to be false and calling for changes.
Biggs analyses the beloved statistic to which progressives cling with touching fortitude:
Is the 21% “pay gap” a function of employers paying women 21% less for precisely the same work in precisely the same job? No. Even among full-time workers, men work longer hours than women.
And men and women also tend to work different jobs. Progressives often see occupational choice as discrimination in disguise, as if barbers were being paid 21% more than hairdressers. The reality is that there are good reasons why male-dominated jobs often pay more. For instance, male occupations are 10 times more likely to be subject to hazards, fumes, and extremes of weather; four times more likely to have excessive noise; and more than twice as likely to require physical strength.
As my AEI colleague Mark Perry has pointed out, the 10 most dangerous occupations in terms of annual fatalities are overwhelmingly male. Even if you look only at male workers, dangerous or unpleasant jobs pay a compensating wage premium to make up for those downsides. The fact that such jobs are male-dominated explains about 4 percentage points of the average male-female pay difference.
But the biggest action is in two words: work experience. As pretty much everyone knows, an employees’ wages tend to rise with work experience. With experience, the employee becomes more productive. Again, this isn’t unique to male-female pay differences. If you analyze only men or only women, those with more work experience will tend to get paid more than those with less experience.
And if you look at survey data, the biggest differences between men and women isn’t in education or test scores or the skills required for their jobs. It’s in work experience. The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth follows individuals over their entire lives. Among individuals aged 43 to 51 in 2008, the typical man had two more years of work experience than the typical woman. On top of that, women’s past work experience consisted much more of part-time work and women were much more likely to report having left the workforce to care for a child or other family member.
If it weren’t for differences in work experience, the male-female pay gap of 21% would shrink by more than 10 percentage points. (These and other figures I cite rely on “The Declining Importance of Race and Gender in the Labor Market,” authored by economics professors June and Dave O’Neill of Baruch College and published by the American Enterprise Institute.)
So what is the solution? Progressives see everything as having a governmental solution and Biggs proposes one:
So here it is: forbid women from staying at home with their children. Make staying at home with kids illegal, just like child labor is illegal. Doing so would equalize work experience between men and women and, more than any other policy, shrink the gender pay gap that so threatens the American dream. “Gender pay discrimination” could be cut in half simply by forbidding women from staying at home to care for their children.
Luckily, most progressive won’t go quite that far, though stories like this make me wonder about some of them.
There are better solutions than the Paycheck Fairness Act, which progressives tout and which would pretty much doom workplace flexibility and merit pay.
Some of these better solutions are expanding the child tax credit and tax reform that would make it easier for one parent to stay at home with children.
IWF offers proposals based on commonsense, personal choice, and the idea that we should control more of our own resources in our new report "Working for Women: A Modern Agenda for Improving Women's Lives."