Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Is there sufficient evidence to conclude that women experience systematic pay discrimination?

In one of my micro sections we read a chapter about pay for men and women in the book The Economics of Public Issues.

Is there sufficient evidence to conclude that women experience systematic pay discrimination? Not according to Harvard economist Claudia Goldin. See The Truth About the Pay Gap: Feminist politics and bad economics by Steve Chapman. Here is an excerpt from that article:
"I [Chapman] asked Harvard economist Claudia Goldin if there is sufficient evidence to conclude that women experience systematic pay discrimination. "No," she replied. There are certainly instances of discrimination, she says, but most of the gap is the result of different choices. Other hard-to-measure factors, Goldin thinks, largely account for the remaining gap -- "probably not all, but most of it."

The divergent career paths of men and women may reflect a basic unfairness in what's expected of them. It could be that a lot of mothers, if they had their way, would rather pursue careers but have to stay home with the kids because their husbands insist. Or it may be that for one reason or another, many mothers prefer to take on the lion's share of child-rearing. In any case, the pay disparity caused by these choices can't be blamed on piggish employers.

June O'Neill, an economist at Baruch College and former director of the Congressional Budget Office, has uncovered something that debunks the discrimination thesis. Take out the effects of marriage and child-rearing, and the difference between the genders suddenly vanishes. "For men and women who never marry and never have children, there is no earnings gap," she said in an interview."
This issue came up recently in the San Antonio Express-News. See Texas wage gap 12th-lowest. The problem with saying women make 77 cents for every dollar that men make is that it does not take things like occupation and years of experience into account. In 2007 the American Association of University Women issued a report. One of the things it says is:
"Ten years after graduation, women fall further behind, earning only 69 percent of what men earn. Even after controlling for hours, occupation, parenthood, and other factors known to affect earnings, the research indicates that one-quarter of the pay gap remains unexplained and is likely due to sex discrimination."
I emailed them the following question but never heard back:
"So the 69 percent means that women earn 69 cents for every dollar that men make ten years after college. That makes the gap 31 cents. But when these other factors are accounted for, one-quarter of the gap remains. Since one-quarter of 31 is 7.75, that means when all other factors are held constant, women earn 92.25 cents for every dollar that men make. Is my interpretation correct? How does this compare to what other studies have found? Is this gap changing over time? Were any other causes for the remaining 7.75 cents examined besides sexual discrimination?"
The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis just issued a report that says Gender Wage Gap May Be Smaller Than Many Think. Excerpts:
"...the gap between the median earnings for men and women was 16.5% in the second quarter of 2011, a historical low and down from 30% in 1989. ... the gender wage gap is very likely affected by the disparity of men in higher paying professions. That disparity, while troublesome all on its own, may be skewing the data.

“Research suggests that the actual gender wage gap (when female workers are compared with male workers who have similar characteristics) is much lower than the raw wage gap,” the authors write.

... after having children many women prefer jobs that have lower pay but better benefits — either better health-care coverage or other perks like a more flexible work schedule.

Economists Eric Solberg and Teresa Laughlin applied an index of total compensation, which accounts for both wages and benefits, to analyze how these benefits would affect the gender gap. They found a gender gap in wages of approximately 13%. But when they considered total compensation, the gender gap dropped to 3.6%,” the authors write."

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