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The “Pay Gap” Is a Myth

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Even if the pay gap did exist, it would not be the job of the federal government to try to eliminate it.

As part of their usual ritual of blaming corporations for non-existent problems, progressives claim that there is a “pay gap” between men and women, and it is the result of an inherent sexism in our society. Far from being treated as the elaborate jest that it is, this myth has been perpetuated so far that many of our election officials have even been convinced of its validity. 

President Obama claimed  that women earn 77 cents to a man’s dollar, and, between rounds at the golf course, he worked to close this gap. Mr. Obama’s statement is quite possibly true, but it does not give us the whole picture. This intentionally misleading claim gives the appearance that women make less than men for the same work, which is simply not true.

Women make less than men not because of sexism but because of the choices they make. A study  from Georgetown University and another from the American Enterprise Institute showed that women are far more likely to choose college majors that lead to lower-paying jobs. Another important consideration is that women usually have fewer years of experience than their male counterparts. This is because many women voluntarily leave the workforce after they have children. A popular quote from Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is that 43% of “highly qualified women with children are leaving careers or off-ramping for a period of time.” Pew Research found that approximately 10% of all mothers with a masters degree are staying at home. Another survey demonstrated that a full 29% of all mothers stayed at home as of the year 2012.

In addition, the “77 cent” statistic makes a broad comparison between men and women of all professions who are working full time. The largest organized crime syndicate in America, formally known as the IRS, defines a full time employee as an individual who works an average of 30 hours a week. Thus, there is no distinction between those who work 40 hours and those who work 30 hours each week. The American Time Use Survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2015 shows that men work an average of three and a half hours more than women every week, a number that clearly adds up over time.

In fact, when Payscale compared pay by gender after controlling for job, education, hours worked, experience, and location, women were found to make 98 cents to a man’s dollar, which is not a statistically significant difference. Even controlling for this does not consider the fact that many employers provide paid maternity leave to their employees, which serves as an equalizer of sorts.

Regardless, much of the debate surrounding this notion of a “wage gap” is whether it exists or not. What’s perhaps more important is why this is even an issue of discussion from a policy standpoint. Does the federal government, or any government for that matter, have the right to tell a business how much its employees should be paid? For the government to make any sort of mandate along those lines would be a tremendous violation of our right to dispense with our property as we wish. Ignoring the rights of consenting individuals to negotiate a contract that both parties find suitable quickly devolves into the territory of the unconstitutional.

It is clear that the myth of the wage gap is spread by politicians looking to gain votes from progressives and the so-called “equal rights” activists, but it is evident that the “wage gap” is simply a myth. But speaking now more generally, we must always examine closely widely-accepted narratives because there is almost always much more than initially meets the eye.

Nikhil Sridhar is a student at Duke University. 

Nikhil Sridhar seeks out writers who bring important new perspectives to Merion West. He studies biology and political science at Duke University and is interested in American politics.

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