The Myth of the Gender Wage Gap

Today is “Equal Pay Day”, a holiday of sorts contrived by feminists to push the oft-discredited, but widely believed, gender wage gap. If you haven’t heard of the gender wage gap before, it is the idea that women make 83 cents to every dollar that is made by a man (2015 numbers). On its face, this sounds like a horrendous miscarriage of justice.  Why are employers allowed to pay women less than men in the same job you may be wondering? The truth is: they aren’t. It’s been illegal for employers to pay female employees less than males for the same work for over 50 years.  If it’s true that employers are legally bound to pay similar positions held by men and women similarly, and it is, then why does this myth refuse to die?

Before we look at that question, let’s see where the “83 cents to every dollar” statistic comes from. The Pew Research Center analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Specifically, they looked at all full and part-time workers’ median hourly earnings. By focusing on hourly earnings, as opposed to weekly earnings or some other measure, Pew can account for the difference in the number of hours worked. To come up with the “83 cents” statistic, Pew divides the total income earned by the total number of hours worked (median hourly earnings), for men and women, respectively. When the median hourly earnings are compared, women make 83 cents to every dollar made by a man.

It should be painfully obvious to anyone reading how deceptive this statistic is. It is based on aggregate numbers that fail to account for all kinds of crucial variables. Aggregate stats don’t consider differences in skills, education, time in the workforce, or even the profession between men and women. For example, men are overwhelmingly more likely to choose college majors with high annual incomes than women. It isn’t just the fact that men choose higher paid majors, women overwhelmingly tend to choose the lowest paying majors, like drama, dance and education. Also, women are more likely to exit the workforce due to childbirth and the raising of children.  Even if those women later come back into the workforce, the employment gap makes a sizable difference in total earnings. When these factors are accounted for, the gender wage gap shrinks from 17 cents to three to five cents. It is literally an apple to oranges comparison.

Yet, even with all the facts about the gender wage gap myth readily available, the clear majority of Americans believe the misleading headlines that women paid less than men for the same work. This leads us back to the original question: why does the gender wage gap myth refuse to die?

Quite simply, the left has too much to lose.  They see this issue as proof positive that capitalism and free markets are sexist and discriminatory. This gives them the right, no the duty, to push an agenda of heavy regulations to even the playing field. But if the disparity in wages can be explained by normal, everyday factors like differing skills or continuous time in the workforce, it can no longer be used to criticize capitalism and free markets for being inherently and institutionally sexist. That’s why anything that challenges the narrative is to be deemed “mansplaining“, otherwise ridiculed, or simply ignored.

If a company is knowingly using two sets of wage scales for male and female employees, then that company is in violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and subject to fines and damages. If the wage gap is really caused by discrimination like the left claims, am I supposed to believe the government is just not enforcing the over half century old law? Give me a break.

Employment contracts are a voluntary arrangement for both the employer and employee. They are also fully negotiable. There is simply no role for the government to play in a libertarian anarchist society. If we are to have a government, though, the only legitimate role for government is to enforce employment contracts via the court system.

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