During his State of the Union address, President Obama restated a long-discredited factoid. “Today women make up about half our workforce,” he declared. “But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.”
What’s truly embarrassing is a president who seeks to once again divide Americans against each other using inaccurate information as his vehicle. The so-called wage gap is based on calculations done by the U.S. Census Bureau. Yet when the Bureau compiled those calculations, it made no distinction between professions, lumping them all together. Thus, as the Heritage Foundation explains, “if high school teachers make less than congressmen…and there are more women who are teachers and more men in the U.S. Congress, then yes, the numbers will show that men make more than women.”
On the other hand, when an apples-to-apple comparison is made, as in controlling for occupation, experience, hours worked per week, education and other choices, a 2009 study commissioned by the Department of Labor reveals that the so-called wage gap narrows to approximately five cents on the dollar. This corroborates a 2005 study compiled by the National Bureau of Economic Research, which concluded that the gender gap “largely stems from choices made by women and men concerning the amount of time and energy devoted to a career, as reflected in years of work experience, utilization of part-time work, and other workplace and job characteristics.”
A report by the left-leaning Daily Beast adds another factor to the list. The website cites a document compiled by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce entitled, “What’s it Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors,” that does in fact reveal a gender gap — in the choice of majors. In the list of the ten “most remunerative majors,” the percentage of men overwhelmingly dominate those of women in nine of the ten categories:
1. Petroleum Engineering: 87 percent male
2. Pharmacy Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration: 48 percent male
3. Mathematics and Computer Science: 67 percent male
4. Aerospace Engineering: 88 percent male
5. Chemical Engineering: 72 percent male
6. Electrical Engineering: 89 percent male
7. Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering: 97 percent male
8. Mechanical Engineering: 90 percent male
9. Metallurgical Engineering: 83 percent male
10. Mining and Mineral Engineering: 90 percent male
By contrast, the ten least remunerative majors are dominated by women in nine out of ten categories:
1. Counseling Psychology: 74% female
2. Early Childhood Education: 97% female
3. Theology and Religious Vocations: 34% female
4. Human Services and Community Organization: 81% female
5. Social Work: 88% female
6. Drama and Theater Arts: 60% female
7. Studio Arts: 66% female
8. Communication Disorders Sciences and Services: 94% female
9. Visual and Performing Arts: 77% female
10. Health and Medical Preparatory Programs: 55% female
The difference in wage scales is dramatic. For example median earnings for those with a degree in metallurgy and petroleum engineering range from $80,000 to $120,000. By comparison, the median earnings for careers in early childhood education and social work range from $36,000 to $39,000. Doubtless a certain level of cultural conditioning factors in those choices. As the Daily Beast notes, women are far more likely to be attached to jobs in “caring professions,” while men opt for “people-free zones.” But they omit what may be the most critical factor of all: selecting a college major is a freely-made, personal choice.
Unsurprisingly, reality appears to irritate those with a political agenda. Even as a study compiled by the feminist group American Association of University Women (AAUW) revealed that the pay-gap between men and women is virtually nonexistent when the aforementioned controls are introduced, they still tried to spin their own data. The Huffington Post’s Christina Hoff explains how. “For example, its researchers count ‘social science’ as one college major and report that, among such majors, women earned only 83 percent of what men earned,” she writes. “That may sound unfair… until you consider that ‘social science’ includes both economics and sociology majors.” Nonetheless, the AAUW remains wedded to ideology. “Women’s personal choices are similarly fraught with inequities,” that result in women being “pigeonholed” into “pink-collar” jobs in the health and education fields, they contend.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) is equally agenda-driven. While they concede that much of the pay gap is driven by personal choice, they insist that powerful sexist stereotypes “steer” women and men “toward different education, training, and career paths” and family roles. That’s a rather remarkable statement from one of America’s foremost promoters of feminism. It suggest that women aren’t bright enough or aware enough to overcome stereotyping. Is there any doubt that a man making the same observation would be labeled an unrepetant misogynist by the women at NOW?
The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson also concedes that the real gender gap revolves around one’s choice of profession, but it still irritates him. “But even if the gender gap disappears after controlling for experience and job selection, it’s hard to imagine that men thoroughly dominating the highest-paying positions is a good outcome,” he insists. “For example, the expectation that women more than men bear the responsibility to raise children gently nudges thousands of highly educated women out of full-time work.”
That so-called expectation is belied by a Pew Research Center survey. It notes that while a nearly equal percent of mothers and fathers say they’d rather be at home raising their children than working, fathers are far more likely than mothers to say they want full-time jobs. Once again, personal choice is the critical factor. On the other hand, the survey also reveals that those choices are changing. Between 2007 and 2012, the percentage of women who indicated they would rather work full-time has increased from 20 percent to 32 percent.
The devil is in the details, however. Much of that change in attitude may be attributable to a bad economy, as women in the most precarious financial situations are more inclined to desire full-time work. Marital status is also an important factor. In 2007, only 26 percent of unmarried mothers wanted full-time work. By 2012 that number had substantially increased to 49 percent. By contrast, 23 percent of married women wanted a full time job in 2007, and that percentage remained unchanged by 2012.
The Pew Center notes that for those determined to frame the issue in terms of a political agenda, it is one that can cut both ways. They note that in the last recession, the net employment for male workers fell by 3 million jobs, compared to only half that number for women. The reason for the disparity is simple. Far more men than women work in the construction, manufacturing, and finance sectors hit hardest by the downturn. “No one would assert that anti-male bigotry explains the recession’s disproportionate impact,” they conclude, even as they state the most obvious reason for the pay gap myth. “Federal and state laws already prohibit sex-based discrimination,” they explain.
So why do President Obama and his fellow travelers continue to promote a false agenda? The Beast suggests it may amount to nothing more than being “taken in by the apologetics of groups like the National Organization for Women and the American Association of University Women.” Yet at the same time, they note the White House has been alerted on more than one occasion about the error, citing a Washington Post “Fact Checker” column written in 2012 as evidence that the wage gap has been debunked for quite some time.
Moreover the issue, such as it exists, may be taking care of itself. According to stats compiled by the Department of Labor, 32 percent of 27-year-old women have earned a bachelor’s degree, compared to only 24 percent of men the same age. There was a similar disparity between men and women with some college and/or a degree as well. Seventy percent of 27-year-old women had a bachelor’s degree or some college attendance, compared to only 61 percent of men. Personal choice will still figure into the overall picture, but it would appear more women will have more choices to make than their male counterparts.
The real agenda being pursued by Obama and company is the one they have always pursued: winning elections by any means necessary. And if that takes riling up a feminist base already attuned to the Democrats’ war on women agenda with another “lie repeated often enough,” so be it.
The president may wish to tread carefully, however. According to the 2013 Annual Report to Congress on White House Staff, the White House has its very own gender pay gap. Its 228 female employees received a median annual salary of $65,000 that year, while the 231 male staffers earned a median annual salary of nearly $73,729. That amounts to a 12 percent, or 88 cents on the dollar, disparity. If such an inconvenient reality appears very much in alignment with another cherished progressive value — as in “do as I say, not as I do” — that’s because it is.
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