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Wednesday, September 29, 2010



Obviously, nothing has worked to close the gender wage gap -- not the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, not affirmative action, not diversity... Nor will the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act work. The wage gap will stubbornly persist because pay-equity advocates stubbornly ignore this:

Despite feminists' 40-year-old demand for women's equal pay, millions of wives still choose to have no pay at all. In fact, according to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of "The Secrets of Happily Married Women," stay-at-home wives, including the childless, constitute a growing niche. "In the past few years,” he says in a CNN August 2008 report at, “many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home.” (“Census Bureau data show that 5.6 million mothers stayed home with their children in 2005, about 1.2 million more than did so a decade earlier....” at Perhaps more women are staying at home because feminists and the media have told them relentlessly for years that women are paid less than men in the same jobs, and so why bother working if they're going to be penalized and humiliated for being a woman.)

As full-time mothers or homemakers, stay-at-home wives earn zero. How can they afford to do this while in many cases living in luxury? Because they're supported by their husband.

If millions of wives can accept no wages and live as well as their husbands, millions of other wives can accept low wages, refuse to work overtime, refuse promotions, take more unpaid days off — all of which lowers women's average pay. They can do this because they are supported by husbands who must earn more than if they'd remained single — which is how MEN help create the wage gap. (If the roles were reversed so that men raised the children and women raised the income, men would average lower pay than women.)

Pay-equity advocates no doubt also support the Age Discrimination In Employment Act. Without it, they may argue, employers, who they say always seek the cheapest labor possible, would replace their older employees with younger ones who will accept lower wages in the same jobs. Yet the advocates must think employers suddenly don't care about cheap labor when it comes to paying men more than women in the same jobs. In sum, the advocates believe employers would replace older workers with younger ones to save money, but will not replace men with women to save money.

See “A Critical Look at the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act” at

By the way, the next Equal Occupational Fatality Day is in 2020. The year 2020 is how far into the future women will have to work to experience the same number of work-related deaths that men experienced in 2009 alone.


The personal still is the political. No need to apologize for it. It's simply a fact.

Though I do agree that our male-oriented work culture as well as women choosing to stay at home with kids both working to undermine (though inadvertently on the part of the moms, at least) equal pay, we should keep in mind that one of the glories of the feminist movement is the freedom of choice. This not only applies to our bodies, but also to how we spend our time. Check out A Mother's Work by Neil Gilbert. He points out that it is convenient for people who love their work to criticize mom's who leave jobs to stay at home with their kids. But what if you hate your job? What if work is not something you love, but something you hate? For those women staying at home with their kids is a much more attractive option. (I know that's not why all mom's choose to stay home, but is bound to be a contributing and/or compounding factor). It's tough because these choices do affect cultural norms and expectations, but there needs to be room left for individual choice too. Whatever the case, these are tough issues personally and they difficult to legislate politically. That said, I think legislation is a great place to start to because it forces companies to makes better decisions for employees and it introduces what can become new cultural norms.



The wage gap issue is intractable, because indeed, someone has to take care of the children. Even if we had ideal child care for every parent in this country (which, needless to say, we don't) there is still a need for at least one parent to have some flexibility so as to be able to participate in a child's life (because, as you note, our schools still operate on the assumption that there IS a parent available during the day to participate in any number of activities.)

We can't staff our parenting out altogether, and most of us can't even afford to have someone at home taking care of our children when we're at work. Going on the assumption that we want what's best for our children (to the best of our abilities) then we need to offer them time and energy and support, and inevitably, some of this needs to come during work hours.

I have precisely one mom friend who has remained a full-time employee while raising her children. One -- and she has a lot of flexibility in her job, which is working for a women's organization. Every other mom I know has either moved to part-time work, begun an independent business from home (like me), or stopped working for a period of time. I only know two moms who have stopped working altogether and for the duration of their childrens' growing up years; the rest either need to work, want to work or both.

Employers have every right to adjust pay scale to work hours. But because the vast majority of the employees who work reduced hours are women, the gap will never close. Women continue to be undervalued and underpaid as employees, and then they step onto the mommy track, never to regain their balance.


I've been hoping that someone would write in to address these comments but since no one else has, I will.

First, let me start by saying this. I don't believe the wage gap is intractable - in fact, it has become narrower over the years, just at a slow pace. We may have reached a point where the obvious fixes won't diminish it even more, but it's clear that both market forces and anti-discrimination laws have led to improvements. There are a number of changes, cultural and legal, that could probably make even more of a difference.

Moreover, although all of these comments speak to the difficulty of addressing the pay disparity issue with one-size-fits-all solutions, they all proceed from a wrong assumption. And that's this: that pay disparities between men and women exist because of individual choices. The pay disparity documented in the GAO study (and many others) is about the same or similar jobs. Apples to apples. That is, the pay disparity found was between full-time male managers and full-time female managers. And the study adjusted for factors that were available and are commonly used in examining salary levels, such as age, hours worked beyond full time, and education. So, even if some of that pay differential could be attributed to less experience in the work-force because of time off for child-rearing activities, it makes sense to question whether this "flexibility stigma" is warranted. In many jobs, the fact that a woman has taken off 6 months, a year, or even two, doesn't really make the work that she performs worth less. But the hit to her earnings is permanent. See an interesting article by David Leonhart, "A Labor Market Punishing to Mothers" for an interesting discussion of this issue. And, at least according to some recent research, even after controlling for the fact that many mothers work less, have interruptions for child-bearing, and accept more "family friendly" jobs, there is still a statistically significant difference in men's and women's wages. See the testimony by Dr. Michelle Budig from last week's JEC hearing:

Also, MaleMatters, please check your facts (and your attitude) - they are old and wrong. The latest figures from the Census Bureau (through 2008) show that 77.5% of women with children 6-17 and 66% of women with children under 6 are in the labor force. Moreover, last year, for the first time the number of working moms who are the sole breadwinners in their families rose last year to an all-time high, and the number of stay-at-home dads edged higher, in a shift of traditional gender roles caused partly by massive job losses. While this is probably not desirable for society as a whole, it does point out just how unfair and devastating (particularly to the families that can least afford it) pay inequalities are.

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