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Wage/race pay gap myths live despite facts

No matter how little factual support they have, you can count on proponents of the gender “wage gap” myth to keep peddling their buncombe. And it gets even more hyperventilated when you can throw race into the mix.

Some Louisiana media outlets regurgitated the breathless proclamation of special interests wishing to perpetuate the myth last week, when the alleged “Equal Pay for Black Women” day occurred. That means in the state that it took this much of 2017 plus 2016 for black women typically to earn as much as white non-Hispanic men did in 2016. By the numbers, the median earnings for that female was 48 percent of that male’s – something to consider as minority females made up a sixth of Louisiana’s civilian labor force in 2014, most of them being black.

Of course, the statistic is bogus from the word “go,” beginning with the fundamental recognition that average earnings differs enormously from average wage. Conceptualized as “wage,” that does not take into account a myriad of factors that affect the average amount of money per year earned by individuals and how they differ by sex and race, including most conspicuously hours worked per year, occupational choices, experience in current jobs, and willingness to work in less desirable locations while travelling more.

When controlling for those kinds of factors to make the matter about wages in equivalent situations, research almost unanimously relegates any difference between the sexes to statistical insignificance. A variety of studies from government, academia, and business over the past decade (here, here, here, here, and here) note that, taking these kind of factors into account, the differences fall between zero and 8.4 percent difference.

In fact, in recent years just one audacious attempt that even attempts to control for some intervening variables has tried to allege a larger difference, coming from the leftist interest group the Economic Policy Institute. It publicized a gap of about 22 percent, although their report actually admitted with some control variables this shrunk to 13.5 percent. But it eschews incorporating others and tries to explain away these omissions with unproven ideological assertions that the larger culture somehow forces these different choices on women, much less discounting entirely that differing preferences between men and women in work might have a biological basis. This agenda-driven sloppy social science does nothing to analyze validly the issue.

If a difference does exist, discrimination unlikely causes that. A number of other unquantifiable factors may explain this, such as negotiating strategies for salaries, willingness to take on hazardous duty, and so on. And other facts make highly doubtful that hostility towards women’s equality create the relatively small differences.

For one, why would the business world tolerate this? In the search for profits, would it not give preference to female hires because it could pay less? And there seems to be no difference between companies in the same industry owned by women and men in terms of the observed raw differences, which argues against discrimination as this should not infect women owners who then would pay their females employees a “fair” wage.

Consider also that certain subgroups of women, all things equal, earn more than men. Perhaps the purest case for analysis involves single, childless individuals – the ones with the fewest ties that face the least pressure in terms of working hours, taking career leave or starting a career later, and the like. In fact, women so situated earn eight percent more than similar men. Other examples noted from almost half a century ago: single women in their thirties who had worked continuously since high school earned slightly more than men of the same description and academic women who had never married earned more than academic men who had never married.

Even the racial subcomponent – supposedly an extra 29 cents on the dollar for black women in Louisiana – has no explanatory power when observing differences among women by race. Using national data from 2015, the median Asian woman earned 87 percent of a white male’s total pay, as opposed to 65 percent for the media black female. If women in the workforce faced pervasive discrimination for their sex, the figures among different races would differ little. And few continue to argue, after all the social and legal change of the past half century, that race plays a significant role in pay decisions – highlighted by the fact that the median Asian man earns 17 percent more than the median white non-Hispanic men.

Naturally, none of this will make an impression on the ideologues still wishing for a wage gap, who because their agenda demands it must accept it on faith. Any serious public policy debate, as exemplified by bills filed in the Louisiana Legislature over the years that would create unnecessary regulation of wages because of the myth, will disregard such nonsense.

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