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Machi4velli
SFN Regular

USA
854 Posts

Posted - 02/03/2014 :  16:33:28  Show Profile Send Machi4velli a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'll be honest, I've always had a problem with this statistic being interpreted as it has been, but it goes no further than a statistical critique. The Washington Post's fact checker has given Obama's use of it in the State of the Union address a very poor score for reasons I think are entirely justified:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/the-white-houses-use-of-data-on-the-gender-wage-gap/2012/06/04/gJQAYH6nEV_blog.html

I don't have a political point, I just think it's entirely unjustified to argue that, since women make 77 cents on the dollar of men, that, well, women are making 23% less for the same work. It's not the same work! It's a raw comparison of median salaries.

As the Washington Post argues, the wage gap nearly vanishes if you compare men with college degrees to women with college degrees. It's down to 86% for hourly workers nationwide (ignoring entirely what kind of work is being done hourly).

Then, apparently Obama then gives a comparison of African American women and Hispanic women vs. white males to list a wage gap there, without indicating this whatsoever, and segueing directly from the raw women to men to Hispanic women vs white males seems rather disingenuous, and almost certainly intentionally introduces the bias (statistically speaking) of race into the data (contrasting Hispanic women and "men" when the men are also restricted to a different ethnicity without indicating this).

None of this even attempts to introduce any more subtle factors associated with lifestyle choices into the data -- this report to the Department of Labor finds a 5% wage gap in an attempt to do so (http://www.consad.com/content/reports/Gender%20Wage%20Gap%20Final%20Report.pdf), and the one linked from the Washington Post article finds 9% through a different strategy. Even a 1% gap due to discrimination is not okay, but to blame the entire gap on discrimination is not justified at all.

Yes, I get that social pressures push women into other areas of work, and agree this is a problem, but bad statistics isn't how to fight that battle!

What's wrong with my argument here?

"Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people."
-Giordano Bruno

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge."
-Stephen Hawking

"Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable"
-Albert Camus

Edited by - Machi4velli on 02/03/2014 17:06:07

Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26000 Posts

Posted - 02/04/2014 :  03:16:20   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Machi4velli

The Washington Post's fact checker has given Obama's use of it in the State of the Union address a very poor score... for reasons I think are entirely justified:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/the-white-houses-use-of-data-on-the-gender-wage-gap/2012/06/04/gJQAYH6nEV_blog.html
Actually, one Pinocchio out of four means
Some shading of the facts. Selective telling of the truth. Some omissions and exaggerations, but no outright falsehoods.
Four Pinocchios means "Whoppers."

And it wasn't the State of the Union, but "Remarks by the President on Equal Pay for Equal Work via Conference Call" from June 12, 2012 (which Kessler mistakenly dated to 2011).

More later...

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Machi4velli
SFN Regular

USA
854 Posts

Posted - 02/04/2014 :  16:55:46   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Machi4velli a Private Message  Reply with Quote
My mistake, I thought the rating was lower. This is also from last year. New articles are referencing it.

“Women earn only 77 cents for every dollar men earn, with women of color at an even greater disadvantage with 64 cents on the dollar for African American women and 56 cents for Hispanic women.”
— White House Statement of Administration Policy on Paycheck Fairness Act, June 4

This was incorrect. The second part is connected with "with women of color at an even greater disadvantage with ...", which is explicitly saying 64 is lower than 77 and is, therefore, worse. They're not comparable numbers, so it being a greater disadvantage does not follow from these numbers. I think this is more than selective truth, it's fallaciously deducing a claim from two truths (by assuming one of the truths is something it's not).

Obama said only

“Women still earn just 70 cents for every dollar a man earns. It's worse for African American women and Latinas.”

This isn't incorrect (just a little exaggerated). I do think people hear that and think it means money for the same work, but that's 1 Pinnochio territory, I agree. Most of this is less of an issue that my first reading suggested.

"Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people."
-Giordano Bruno

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge."
-Stephen Hawking

"Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable"
-Albert Camus
Edited by - Machi4velli on 02/04/2014 17:24:46
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Dave W.
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USA
26000 Posts

Posted - 02/04/2014 :  22:56:41   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I fail to see how even the basic claim is problematic. Everyone has to feed themselves and their families for 365 days a year, so whether your hours are reduced due to having summers off or pregnancy or institutional sexism, it ultimately results in reduced purchasing power to feed, clothe and house oneself and one's dependents. So the complaints made in the Wapo piece about comparing salaried workers to hourly workers aren't compelling to me, because the style of payment is ultimately irrelevant.

Which confounders would be relevant? Obviously anyone (male or female) who chooses to earn less than they otherwise could because they want to spend the time on other endeavors (like raising children) needs to have their income adjusted upwards for the values to be comparable. For example, someone who earns only 80% of what they're qualified and able to earn because they choose to have a reduced income needs to have their pay adjusted 125% for a real fairness comparison to take place. But there are going to be all sorts of corner cases where what appears to be a choice to one person seems like a necessity to another.

"For the same work" has similar problems. It's easy to find cases where someone has the education/training to do work at pay rates far above what their life circumstances have led them to. I hear it said that all waiters in Los Angeles are actually massively underpaid actors, for example. I personally know a guy who discovered that his history degree only qualifies him for being a clerk at Kinkos, and so he can't afford to move somewhere that his education might find him better job prospects, in no small part because he's strapped with student-loan debt that's useless. Should we adjust his pay upwards because in an ideal world, his parents would have lived in a city with a larger proportion of jobs requiring history degrees?

Of course not. We can't account for even a majority of the various contingencies a worker might face in life, but the comparison we're worried about is one of the big ones with a huge, well-known historical bias: what sex one happens to be born to. We know that there have been centuries of economic abuse piled on women in that they've either been steered towards low-paying careers or been forced to not work at all. We can't ignore that. We can't insist that because the playing field might currently be legally level that we compare everyone, young and old, as if it's always been level. Sixty-year-old low-paid secretaries today probably did not gain the skills needed to become secretaries simply through choice 40-someodd years ago, and they don't have the resources to suddenly swap careers now, either.

(It's not like once a person has been a secretary for thirty years, they get bumped up to CEO. Or even "executive assistant." My mother entered the job force as a secretary, and she died as one. Her income followed inflation at best, and she didn't make enough to afford to train on her own for a better career path.)

And the bit about women of color... Would it be unfair to compare womens' heights to mens' heights, and say that while the average woman is an inch shorter than the average man, black women are two inches shorter and Hispanic women three inches shorter (numbers for examples only)? All three comparisons are to the average male, so I fail to see how the numbers are not comparable. It's essentially saying that there are two sub-groups that are pulling the overall female group average down, compared to males.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
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Machi4velli
SFN Regular

USA
854 Posts

Posted - 02/06/2014 :  16:19:13   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Machi4velli a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dave W.
Obviously anyone (male or female) who chooses to earn less than they otherwise could because they want to spend the time on other endeavors (like raising children) needs to have their income adjusted upwards for the values to be comparable. For example, someone who earns only 80% of what they're qualified and able to earn because they choose to have a reduced income needs to have their pay adjusted 125% for a real fairness comparison to take place. But there are going to be all sorts of corner cases where what appears to be a choice to one person seems like a necessity to another.


For them to be comparable, sure. I am actually arguing against the raw number being used to compare men and women when they ignore all such choices. But, a greater proportion of women than men are likely choosing (and/or being somehow pressured into) spending more time raising children as opposed to working, so controlling for this would actually reduce the wage gap because the more highly female saturated pool of folks forgoing some work for raising children would disproportionately increase the female wage numbers.

"For the same work" has similar problems. It's easy to find cases where someone has the education/training to do work at pay rates far above what their life circumstances have led them to.


I don't see how this makes it difficult to actually compare money for the same type of job from men to women to see how much bias exists outside social pressures pushing different life choices. I feel like the numbers being used are crude for not adjusting for these things you said, but folks try to use them to argue the non-social-pressure bias, when they really have no idea which contributes what portion of the gap -- possibly one or the other is practically negligible.

Looking at the pool of folks with college education eliminates most of the gap, which may give some support to the claim that any sort of overt wage discrimination (which Washington Post says is what the desired legislation targets) actually doesn't contribute that much, but rather institutional sexism. This does indicate a higher gap among non-college graduates, where it may be the case that available jobs with good pay are more commonly physically demanding, which may lead to fewer women acquiring these jobs.

No doubt to some unknown extent it is due to sexist hiring practices, but it's also partially due to women not seeking the jobs as much. And, of course, the inverse correlation between education and birth rates may cause that to disproportionately hit this part of the population.

I'm just not sure we, or at least government, can actually do a whole lot about the social pressures that undoubtedly exist. Perhaps more funds put toward child care and education for mothers, and, honestly, I would probably try to discourage young parents from having babies (in unobtrusive ways - mandatory sex ed in high school, easy access to birth control/prophylactics: this would undoubtedly reduce costs of social programs over all, so I don't understand conservatives here).

but the comparison we're worried about is one of the big ones with a huge, well-known historical bias: what sex one happens to be born to. We know that there have been centuries of economic abuse piled on women in that they've either been steered towards low-paying careers or been forced to not work at all. We can't ignore that. We can't insist that because the playing field might currently be legally level that we compare everyone, young and old, as if it's always been level. Sixty-year-old low-paid secretaries today probably did not gain the skills needed to become secretaries simply through choice 40-someodd years ago, and they don't have the resources to suddenly swap careers now, either.


I didn't say we should, I said bad usage of statistics isn't a way to fight whatever institutional sexism exists in pushing women toward lower paying careers.

And the bit about women of color... Would it be unfair to compare womens' heights to mens' heights, and say that while the average woman is an inch shorter than the average man, black women are two inches shorter and Hispanic women three inches shorter (numbers for examples only)? All three comparisons are to the average male, so I fail to see how the numbers are not comparable. It's essentially saying that there are two sub-groups that are pulling the overall female group average down, compared to males.


No, Washington Post said it was a comparison of all males to all females and then median white males to Hispanic and then African American women, not to the average (median actually) male. It wasn't actually Obama who did it, but this was I think the worst sin:

Not only did the White House pick the statistic that makes the wage gap look the worst, but then officials further tweaked the numbers to make the situation for African Americans and Hispanics look even more dire.

The BLS, for instance, says the pay gap is relatively small for black and Hispanic women (94 cents and 91 cents, respectively) but the numbers used by the White House compare their wages against the wages of white men. Black and Hispanic men generally earn less than white men, so the White House comparison makes the pay gap even larger, even though the factors for that gap between minority women and white men may have little to do with gender.

"Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people."
-Giordano Bruno

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge."
-Stephen Hawking

"Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable"
-Albert Camus
Edited by - Machi4velli on 02/06/2014 16:21:04
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On fire for Christ
SFN Regular

Saudi Arabia
1265 Posts

Posted - 02/10/2014 :  00:11:42   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send On fire for Christ a Private Message  Reply with Quote
if the wage gap for college educated people doesn't exist, but the wage gap regardless of job title DOES exist, then isn't the problem an educational one rather than institutionalised racism in the workplace?

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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26000 Posts

Posted - 02/10/2014 :  10:56:24   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I see what you're getting at, Mach.
Originally posted by Machi4velli

...but folks try to use them to argue the non-social-pressure bias, when they really have no idea which contributes what portion of the gap -- possibly one or the other is practically negligible.
Well, it's easy to see that any difference at the minimum-wage level cannot be a difference in actual pay rate, but instead must be due to a reduction in hours - which is going to be due to social biases.
Looking at the pool of folks with college education eliminates most of the gap...
Just heard a piece on the radio which suggested that this is not true for executives. What field one's college education is in may make a difference, and perhaps there's a substantial gap amongst MBAs.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
Visit Dave's Psoriasis Info, too.
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