It’s no accident that Hillary Clinton’s first series of events after announcing her candidacy for president comes on April 14th, “Equal Pay Day.” It’s also fitting that the equal pay debate, for which Clinton has been a key spokesperson, is premised on a complete lie. One would expect nothing less from the woman who, just recently, told blatant falsehoods in a hearing about her misconduct as Secretary of State.
Equal Pay Day perpetuates the myth that women make less than men for doing the same work, and that sexism is largely to blame for the inequality. This claim has been debunked repeatedly, but since progressives keep trying to score political points by repeating it, there’s no harm in setting the record straight once again.
Let’s look at each claim individually:
Women Earn Less than Men
All good lies start with a grain of truth. In this case, the first half of the first clause is that grain. Yes, women do, on average, earn less than men.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) puts the average female wage at about 82 percent of that of the average male. You will frequently hear that women earn 70 cents on the dollar compared to men, but that statistic is either extremely outdated (according to BLS, it hasn’t been true since the 1980s) or else it is fabricated.
…For Doing the Same Work
This is where the pay inequality claim takes a dramatic left turn into the slums of Lie Town. It’s unclear where the “same work” talking point originated, but it emphatically, undeniably false. The 82 percent statistic is obtained by taking the wages of all working women and comparing them to the wages of all working men. To conclude that this represents “the same work” requires the baseless and empirically false assumption that women and men have the exact same kinds of jobs and the exact same kinds of experience.
We all know, intuitively and through observation, that there are some fields that are more heavily dominated by women, and some that are more heavily dominated by men. I don’t see many female construction workers. I don’t see many male harpists. This is because men and women make different choices about their career paths, and those choices largely determine what kind of wage a person will earn.
Women are less likely to enter fields that are more dangerous or time intensive, and that therefore come with a wage premium. They are also more likely to take time off their careers for family, which puts them at an experiential disadvantage compared to men. These are personal decisions, freely chosen, and there’s nothing wrong with them. But it’s unreasonable to pretend that life choices have no impact on your earning potential. It turns out, when education and life choice are taken into account, women actually earn a little more than their male counterparts… not that I’m complaining.
And Sexism Is to Blame!
Comparing average wages between groups without context, and then attributing a single cause to the differences is an absurd abuse of statistics for political purposes. It would make as much sense to claim that the difference in wages between 18-year-olds and 45-year olds-was due to pervasive societal ageism.
If there remains any doubt that the equal pay debate is a red herring, a simple thought experiment should make it clear how silly such claims are. If it were really possible to hire women at a 23 percent discount over men to do the exact same work, what company wouldn’t take advantage of this? A 23 percent savings on payroll could allow a company staffed exclusively by women to crush all competition with ease, and yet we don’t see it happening. The reason is that the pay gap is a myth, albeit one that stubbornly refuses to die.
If Hillary Clinton really wants to appeal to women, she should give them a little credit, instead of continuing to mislead them with easily disprovable statistics. She may well find that the American woman is too smart to support someone who bases her campaign on a lie.