Honolulu Advertiser.
February 3, 2000

The pay gap is a phony issue
by Diana Furchtgott-Roth

Diana Furchtgott-Roth is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise

Studies show that women who are in the same Jobs as men, who have the
same qualifications and who don't cut back on their work because of
childbearing earn practically the same as men.

Last week President Clinton declared that women get paid only 75 percent
for the same kind of work that men do and added, It's as if (women)
were only picking up three paychecks, instead of four, in four pay
periods.  The average woman has to work, therefore, an extra 17 weeks a
year to earn what a similarly qualified man in the same kind of job
makes, the president said.

To solve this alleged problem, the president asked Congress to allocate
$27 million to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the
Department of Labor and to pass Sen. Thomas Daschle's Paycheck Fairness
Act, which would set wage guidelines for different occupations.

Unfortunately, the president is ill-served on this question by staffers
who let him believe that equally qualified women make only 75 cents on a
man's dollar. This is not true.

Study after study shows that women who are in the same jobs as men, who
have the same qualifications and who don't cut back on their time in the
workforce because of child-rearing, earn practically the same amount as
men " about 95 cents on the dollar. Moreover, any woman who feels she is
discriminated against has the legal right to sue.

The frequently used 75-cents number is the average full-time woman's
wage divided by the average full-time man's wage. It compares women who
have chosen to be social workers to men who have chosen to be lawyers;
women who majored in English literature to men who majored in math; and
women who work 35 hours a week to men who work 48 hours.

Equal pay for equal work is the law of the land, but the law does not
say that men's and women's average wages have to be equal. And the
averages are different for many reasons, none of which the Labor
Department and the EEOC could change with $27 million.

First, women have not been in the workforce as long as men, 1978 was the
first year in which 50 percent of women were in the labor force. Thus,
fewer women than men have the experience and qualifications to earn high
salaries. Many of today's highest earners received their education and
training in the 1960s and 1970s, a time when few women trained for
high-paying careers.  Second, even though women now earn 40 percent of
law and business degrees, as well as half of medical degrees and 55
percent of all bachelor's and master's degrees awarded, many still
choose specialties that pay less. They receive about half the doctorates
in public administration and communications but only 12 percent of the
doctorates in engineering and 24 percent of those in math.  Economists
Charles Brown and Mary Corcoran found that when educational choices were
accounted for, women made 94 percent of men's earnings.  Third, because
80 percent of women bear children, they often choose careers with more
flexible hours that will enable them to combine work and family, thereby
sacrificing higher pay. In a 1997 study, Professor Jane Waldfogel of
Columbia University showed that women without children made 95 percent
of men's wages, while women with children made 75 percent.

The average wage gap has been shrinking over time, and is expected to
diminish further as women invest In higher education, move into
higher-paying professions and rise to positions of leadership in firms.
Daschle's bill, however, attempts to narrow the gap by having the
Department of Labor set wage guidelines for men's and women's

Unemployment for both men and women is at a 30-year low, wages and
labor-force participation rates for women are at an all-time high and
the economy is expanding robustly. Is it really believable, in our
litigious society, at a time of low un-employment, that women, a
better-educated majority of the population, quietly and consistently
would accept being paid less than their due?  The 75-cents wage gap stow
is fiction. Women really do bring home four paychecks a month.

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