Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The 77% Factoid

On Tuesday of this week President Obama delivered himself of a claim that he's made several times in the past. He asserted that,
Today, the average full-time working woman earns just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns…in 2014, that’s an embarrassment. It is wrong.
He obviously intended to give the impression that there's a fundamental injustice in how men and women are compensated in the American workplace, but surely he knows better.

The Washington Post's fact checker Glenn Kessler explains. Here are a few excerpts:
June O’Neill, a former director of the Congressional Budget Office who has been a critic of the 77-cent statistic, has noted that the wage gap is affected by a number of factors, including that the average woman has less work experience than the average man and that more of the weeks worked by women are part-time rather than full-time. Women also tend to leave the work force for periods in order to raise children, seek jobs that may have more flexible hours but lower pay and choose careers that tend to have lower pay.

When such differences are accounted for, much of the hourly wage gap dwindled, to about 5 cents on the dollar.

Indeed, BLS data show that women who do not get married have virtually no wage gap; they earn 96 cents for every dollar a man makes.
One study, for example, found that nine of the ten most remunerative college majors were dominated by men while nine of the ten least remunerative majors were dominated by women.

Not only does wittingly citing bogus statistics do nothing to engender confidence in the President's integrity it also made him look derisible when it was discovered that the wage disparity between men and women working in the White House is greater than it is in Washington as a whole:
McClatchy newspapers did the math and reported that when the same standards that generated the 77-cent figure were applied to White House salaries, women overall at the White House make 91 cents for every dollar men make. White House spokesman Jay Carney protested that the review “looked at the aggregate of everyone on staff, and that includes from the most junior levels to the most senior.” But that’s exactly what the Census Department does.
Kessler concludes that,
Unless women stop getting married and having children, and start abandoning careers in childhood education for naval architecture, this huge gap in wages will almost certainly persist. Democrats thus can keep bringing it up every two years.
There's a gap, but it's hardly the embarrassment the President claims it is. Indeed, the embarrassment is that despite having been repeatedly corrected on this factoid he persists in trotting it out. One might be forgiven for thinking that the dissimulation is a deliberate attempt to mislead the American people in order to give the Democrats an issue upon which they can hang their hat in November.

It's just a shame that Mr. Obama can't find an issue about which he can tell the truth and have it work to his political advantage. Apparently there aren't many of those out there.