Democracy Has Prevailed.

January 2, 2016

To Pittgirl, With The Greatest Respect, I Offer A Correction

A week or so ago, my friend Ginny (aka "Virginia Montanez", aka "Pittgirl") published this piece in Pittsburgh Magazine, titled "10 Ways Pittsburgh Ruled 2015."

As the title describes, Ginny proffers 10 bullet points as to why Pittsburgh was a great place to be in 2015 - points like:
  • Our food is better than yours (about how Zagat named Pittsburgh "Top Food City of 2015"
  • Hold the door (about how Mayor Peduto pledged to take in 500 Syrian refugees)
And so on.  I can't argue much of anything Ginny wrote - except her last bullet.  This one:
  • That’ll be $10, sir. That’ll be $7.60, ma’am (about the pop-up shop opened in Garfield to illustrate the gender pay gap)
Yea, sorry to say I guess we have to revisit this but I don't want to edit what Ginny writes.  Here it is in full:
The fact that women in Pittsburgh earn 76 cents for every dollar men work for the same job is insanely frustrating. Go to the same school, pay the same tuition, earn the same degree, work your way up to the same job title, take home 24% less pay. ‘scuse me while I flip this table. One local graphic designer, Elana Schlenker, put Pittsburgh on the pay-gap map this year by opening a pop-up store in Garfield called 76 < 100 in which she charged female customers 24% less than male customers in an effort to draw attention to the pay gap issue. It worked. Soon national news outlets picked up on the story and she was hearing from women all over the world interested in learning more about how they could start similar ventures in their hometowns. As a result of the coverage, Schlenker opened 66 < 100 in New Orleans and now has other American cities in the pipeline. I’m looking forward to the day she can open 100 = 100 in Pittsburgh.
There's only one thing wrong with that paragraph - it's its opening premise.  Actually, had Ginny simply omitted the phrase "for the same job" there'd be nothing there with which to disagree.  Had she simply written:
The fact that women in Pittsburgh earn 76 cents for every dollar men earn is insanely frustrating.
I wouldn't be writing this blog post.  It's the "for the same job" part that unravels her entire idea.

Let me explain (again).

As the American Association of University Women reported recently the median income for women in Pennsylvania is $39,905 and the median income for men in Pennsylvania is $50,412.  Pop up the calculator App on your phone, divide the former by the latter, and you'll get about 79%.

So the pay gap exists.

But does it exist for the same work?


The AAUW explains:
Critics charge that pay differences between men and women are simply a matter of personal choices. AAUW addressed this argument in our 2012 report, Graduating to a Pay Gap: The Earnings of Women and Men One Year after College Graduation. Our analysis found that just one year after college graduation, women were paid 82 percent of what their similarly educated and experienced male counterparts were paid.  An earlier report, Behind the Pay Gap (AAUW, 2007), found that 10 years after graduation, the pay gap widened, and women were paid only 69 percent of what men were paid.  In part, these pay gaps do reflect men’s and women’s choices, especially the choice of college major and the type of job pursued after graduation. For example, women are more likely than men to go into teaching, and this contributes to the pay gap because teachers tend to be paid less than other college graduates.  Economists often consider this portion of the pay gap to be explained, regardless of whether teachers’ wages are considered fair. [Italics in Original.]
But take a closer look at the text. They're talking less about "equal pay for equal work" than they are discussing whether it's fair that professions usually populated by more women than men are less valued than professions usually populated more men than women.  But that's a separate discussion, isn't it?

As I wrote some time ago, the AAUW used these headings as a way to clarify the issue in the above mentioned report Behind the Pay Gap:
  • Women and men choose different majors. 
  • Choice of major plays a significant role in future wages. 
  • Women and men work in different occupations. 
  • Men report working more hours than women report working. 
  • Women are more likely than men to take time off to care for children. 
  • Men report working more hours than women report working. 
  • Women are more likely to use family leave, work part time, or leave the labor force for some period.
So it's not about the same work.  Once they're all take into account, the pay gap closes considerably.  Of course any gap is immoral and unacceptable.  But the only way to solve a problem is to face it as clearly as possible and, simply put, the sentence "women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same work" does little to clarify a very complicated issue.

Let's take another look at Ginny's first sentence:
The fact that women in Pittsburgh earn 76 cents for every dollar men work for the same job is insanely frustrating. [Emphasis added.]
It's also not true.  Sorry, Ginny.

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