by James A. Bacon
We repeatedly hear the claim that women earn only 77% as men, as if the difference were attributable entirely to workforce discrimination. Annie Rorem at the Demographics Research Group at the University of Virginia believes that “there is reason to believe” that women earn less than men in the United States, but concedes “it takes a lot of careful work to meaningfully demonstrate it.”
Writing in the StatChat blog, Rorem walks readers through the perils of drawing superficial conclusions. One source of wage data by sex, the Quarterly Workforce Indicator Explorer, comes from the Census Bureau. Here’s what it shows for selected Virginia localities:
Wow, it looks like a massive wage disparity! But beware. These numbers do not distinguish between full-time jobs or part-time jobs, says Rorem, and women are more likely than men to work part-time. Fewer hours worked undoubtedly accounts for some of the earnings discrepancy. To distinguish between full-time and part-time work, one must resort to the American Community Survey, which compares full-time earnings.
Hmmm…. the wage gap narrows considerably, except in Fairfax and Arlington counties. But there’s another problem, says Rorem. These wages are self-reported, which means they are not as reliable and precise as the first set of numbers. They come with a margin of error. So, she adjusts for the margin of error.
That closes the gap even more. Indeed, in several localities, there is not enough data to state unequivocally that men out-earn women at all.
Perhaps more importantly, this analysis leaves out other critical variables: education, experience, age and industry. Rorem will delve into those factors in a future blog post.
A snide aside: I find it interesting that the wage gap, by this reckoning, is widest in the two localities — Fairfax County and Arlington County — that have the “bluest” electorates. Could it be that liberals, progressives and Democrats are closet misogynists who discriminate even more blatantly against women than conservatives do? Certainly that’s the conclusion we would draw if we parroted the simplistic-to-the-point-of-being-brain-dead factoid that women earn only 77% as much as men. Of course, no honest person would never make such a flawed comparison.
There may be workforce discrimination against women, I don’t know. From what I’ve seen of her analysis so far, I have far more faith in what Rorem has to say on the subject than anything coming out of the White House. I look forward to Part II of her analysis.There are currently no comments highlighted.