Feature

The truth about women’s wages

The gender wage gap is a myth—the numbers commonly cited to “make the claim of widespread discrimination are fundamentally misleading.”

Mark J. Perry and Andrew G. BiggsThe Wall Street Journal

The gender wage gap is a myth, said Mark J. Perry and Andrew G. Biggs. For advocates of pay equity, there’s one statistic that’s all too familiar: Women “still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.” Critics, including President Obama, say this constitutes wage discrimination, but the numbers commonly cited to “make the claim of widespread discrimination are fundamentally misleading.” The truth is, not all workers are created equal. When the Bureau of Labor Statistics says full-time female workers earn only a percentage of full-time males’ earnings, it fails to adjust for factors like educational background, work experience, “gender differences in family roles like child care,” or even how many hours individuals work or what type of jobs they have. But the real weakness of this argument is that “these gender-disparity claims are also economically illogical. If women were paid 77 cents on the dollar, a profit-oriented firm could dramatically cut labor costs by replacing male employees with females.” And while advocates of fairer pay say women should be entitled to sue employers to force them to close the wage gap, that solution could easily backfire, creating “a disincentive for firms to hire women” in the first place.

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