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Gender pay gap myths and 2008

By Gordon E. Finley
web posted November 19, 2007

A headline by Reuters on Nov. 7 was startling and certainly newsworthy: "Female U.S. corporate directors out-earn men: study." Yet, one full week later there was no newspaper coverage of this politically incorrect report, though the study was based on 25,000 corporate directors at 3,200 companies with female directors being an 8-to-1 minority.

The Reuters report stands in stark contrast to the politically correct -- but empirically incorrect -- Associated Press story that blanketed the nation on April 23, 2007. The AP story was based on the advocacy press release of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) that claimed after one year out of college women earned 20 percent less than men and that the gap widened 10 years later to 31 percent. The AP did not tell the nation that statistical analyses accompanying the press release reduced the two purported gaps to 5 percent and 12 percent respectively.

The comparison of the Reuters and AP stories leads us to four important questions. First, can we have full confidence in Associated Press stories? The answer clearly is no. Second, is there really a gender pay gap?

This answer here also appears to be no based on research published in America's most prestigious peer-reviewed economics journal. Economist June O'Neill, the former director of the Congressional Budget Office, wrote an article titled "The gender gap in wages, circa 2000" in the May 2003 issue of the American Economic Review. By factoring in some of the many work-related differences between men and women such as hours worked per week, danger and travel requirements of the job, years of education, years in the field, and many other characteristics, she found the purported pay gap virtually vanished.

Further, a recent New York Times story titled "For young earners in big city, a gap in women's favor" portends a pay gap favoring women immediately following educational completion.

Third, is there really a boy and man crisis in education? Here the answer is an unqualified yes. While there are many "boy crisis deniers" in the media, they blindly follow ideology rather than empirical research reality. The basic facts of the boy and man crisis in education have been widely disseminated. Briefly, they are: Boys perform less well in school at all levels than do girls and have higher school drop-out rates especially in high school. In higher education, men at best constitute 40 percent of the undergraduate student population and university graduates, 25 percent of psychology graduate students, and 20 percent of veterinary medicine students. And, the list goes on with comparisons predominantly favoring women.

Fourth and finally, what does this all mean for the 2008 elections?

Candidates like Sen. Hillary Clinton seek the "women's vote" by continuing to promote the now discredited myths that women are yet again victimized in pay and education. What America needs, however, are credible candidates who can face empirical research reality and take action that is fair both to males and females.

Even if we call the wage gap controversy a draw in 2007, the boy and man crisis in education unequivocally portends an overwhelming gender wage gap favoring women in the immediate and continuing future. The Reuters report was on the money and should be viewed as the tip of the iceberg.

If candidates want the "male vote" -- as well as the votes of females who wish to have men intimately involved in their lives -- they will ignore P.C. Ideology, face squarely empirical research reality, and propose solutions favoring gender equality. ESR

Professor of psychology at Florida International University. His faculty Web site is http://psych.fiu.edu/Faculty&StaffPages2/Finley/Finley.htm


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