Re: Equalizing Advantage

Date: Wed Feb 23 2000 - 15:09:45 EST

In reply to:
>>>I am a bit amazed about why you might want to engage in conversation
with people you seem to think are suspect.Was joining this group some sort
of class assignment?>>>

Why do I engage in conversation with people whom I believe to be "suspect?"
First, I've at best, shown a desire for conversation by asking several
questions. Until there are a number of exchanges, I don't believe that a
"conversation" exists. Besides, I'm more interested in a "discussion" or a
"dialogue" wherein more than one side of an issue is acknowledged, and
those party to the interaction agree to respect one another in order that
all may learn.

Second, I have read the Department of Labor Study on Equal Pay for Women
recommended to me by a member of this list. In possession of this Report,
I've already benefited from the information contained therein. There's a
good deal of hard statstical data reported. However, some of the inferences
drawn from the numbers are open to interpretation and dispute.

Third, I wish I were a student. Those were golden years, indeed. But I had
to leave school when I finished my Ph.D. Since then, I've trained lots of
students in critical thinking, reasoning, argumentation, and debate. With
my students, we've processed and analyzed many dissertations worth of
evidence. Your caricature of me as a person involved with a "class project"
is an attempt to shift the focus of my questions away from their substance
to a discussion of myself and my motives. Indeed, I suspect that by
labeling my inquiries a "class project," attempt has been made to
trivialize my interest in the subject as unworthy of the attention of this
group. At best, this is an attempt to change the subject.

>>>The questions you ask are very complex and there are NO simple

I agree that there are no simple answers, but you can't have it both ways
(if you wish your reasoning to be valid). Not only is it inaccurate to
write that women earn 70% of what men earn, it's disingenuous to use such a
simplistic comparison of earnings while responding to inquiries that there
are "no simple answers." I agree, it's just too simple to say that women
earn 70%, 80%, or whatever aggregate percentage is chosen.

The 70% figure is simply wrong. The Labor Dept. report to which I was
refered reports "that women have benefited from a generation of phenomenal
progress" (pg. 9) in earnings power. Further, the report states that
full-time working women between 25 and 35 earn 84% of what men earn.
Further, the Report states that "on average," a woman in 1997 earned 74% on
average for what a man had earned. A woman's relative wage rose to 76.3
during the first quarter of 1998. Again, the 70% figure is simply wrong.

A reader hardly has to scratch the surface of this report to find problems
which cast doubt on the accuracy of the numbers reported. First, it is
written by the Clinton Labor Department. As part of a notoriously partisan
administration, the political purpose of the report becomes clear when
Hillary Rodham Clinton is quoted as an expert. Second, the ambiguous
phrase, "on average," is used. The reader's not informed whether this
denotes mean, median, or mode. Without clarification, the 74% and 76.3
percentages have no precise meaning, other than to indicate that women earn
less than men. Third, the 84% statistic is interesting. Younger working
women are doing considerably better at closing the wage gap than the
women's workforce as a whole. This would seem to indicate that there is
great improvement for women entering the work force which will work it's
way through the work force as women age. Fourth, the statistics apply only
to the full-time work force. As such, there is no telling how factoring in
temporary and part-time wage earners would effect the aggregate numbers.
Fifth, the Report itself is confusing. For example, page 32 reports that in
1997, women under 25 earned 92.1 percent of what men did, while women
between 25 and 54 earned 74.4%. Looking at this statistic, prospects for
young women entering the work force look very good indeed, and a dramatic
closing of the wage gap can be expected as the youngest workers age.

Overall, and this is quite troubling, this report does a good deal of
comparison of apples and oranges, kiwi, eggplant, and bacon. A particular
category is created to make one point, forgotten, and another one is
created to make another point, and so on... The point is that whether the
wage differential is calculated to be 60%, 70%, 80%, or 90% and above, each
of these numbers represents a snapshot of a part of the labor market. No
one can, and should not be used to describe the "big picture."

This then is the complexity of the issue, understanding how difference is
calculated, about what assumptions a number is based and what part of the
labor force it represents. I would encourage anyone who read the Labor
Department report before use comparative statistics and omit any use of a
relative percentage from your writing until you've acquainted yourself with
their source. wrote:
>>>For example, while it is true that women's enrollment in college is
slightly higher than that of males, women dominated professions are still
nursing and elementary school teaching. Both professions, particularly the
latter, do not offer competitive salaries. In fact in my area of the
country, a beginning teacher with 2 children is eligible for support from
Head Start and WIC. College degrees do not nec. mean higher salary. That is
just one example of the how the assumptions that seem to be driving your
inquiry are a bit myopic.>>>

I'm not myopic. I believe that people should be paid equally for doing the
same work in accordance to what the market will allow under given
circumstances at a particular time. I believe fervently in equal pay for
equal work, but I recognize many variables are at work in determining
levels of pay, sex is one from among many.

I have a further question. What is the ultimate goal of the pay equity
movement. Is it to ensure that there is group equality of pay? In which
case, is the final goal that all groups will be paid precisely the same?

Thank you for you attention.


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