The pay gap: discrimination?

There’s a front-page article in today’s News & Record about the “pay gap” between the genders. (I’m not providing a link; serious political observers either subscribe to the local paper, or read it on-line. Besides, it really irritates left-wing bloggers when we don’t provide links.) According to the article, in North Carolina, a woman makes 81 cents for every dollar a man makes. MaryBe (that’s her name, according to the story) McMillan, secretary-treasurer of the NC AFL-CIO says, “it’s discrimination plain and simple.” Of course she would say that.

But maybe it’s not plain and simple discrimination. Everywhere I’ve worked, when school is postponed or cancelled because of bad weather, several women (with children) do not show up at the office. At least 2-3 days a week, several other women (with children) do not report to work because their child is sick, and can’t go to school. I am not criticizing the moms for taking care of their kids, but surely, an employer should take attendance into account when establishing wages: If Bob reports to work 98 percent of the time, but Suzy reports to work 85 percent of the time, then, at least as far as attendance is concerned, Bob deserves to make more money than Suzy.

“Plain and simple discrimination” is a nice bogey-monster—a means of creating outrage among feminists, labor unions, and assorted victims’ groups–but in the real world, absolute “equality” is neither desirable nor possible.            

Charles Davenport Jr. is the editor of The Greensboro Guardian.

22 Responses to The pay gap: discrimination?

  1. Gary Wade says:

    Mr. Davenport, while your comments on Mothers missing work due to schools out and child care issues may be true, this is by no means the full picture of “Real World” reality. I am a 61 year old Male, who is out of work, due to extreme high unemployment rates and another category of “Discrimination” called AGE!! A true fact. I am a stay at home “Mom” and Nanny for My 3 fourteen year olds. Yes they are mine. My wife is gainfully employed as an executive manager in an office and NEVER misses work due to child issues. She should not receive a 19% pay cut because her performance review is equal to the guys!!!!
    Just asking you to see the big picture. I have spent 42 years in the business world and have seen it all.

  2. Gary Wade says:

    Follow up comments. Many of my 42 years were in management where I witnessed years of patterns for the GUYS habitually missing work due to GUY STUFF — calling in with false excuses or just marking off with no notice — Deer hunting season, Monday morning hangovers from sporting events & bar hopping, GOLF -(Dare we mention that), romantic adventure, etc. etc. Nuff said. Mom’s missing work is real, Men missing work is real & usually not as Noble a reason!!! Let’s be real.

  3. Bob Grenier says:

    Is your wife paid less than other managers in her office, or less than other managers in comparable positions in other companies?

  4. Gary Wade says:

    Considering this is a public discussion and my last name is posted, I shouldn’t speak to specifics of her details. The point is, erroneous, unjust pay decisions are made in all scenarios. In any given workplace, blue collar, corporate, private or public, pay levels should be based ONLY on, performance reviews, attendance records, productivity to company profit dollars, teamwork, and the VALUE brought to the table, NOT gender, race, age or religion. People are people, some women outwork men and vice-versa. To use Children, Childcare issues to cite poor attendance versus Men’s indigenous inexcusable reasons (listed above) to miss work is “Off the map” of human dignity. I am a conservative Republican, NOT defending ACLU, I detest their work of stripping constitutional, God givien freedoms from this country with their liberalism. Jesus defended unjust treatment of women in his culture, who at that time were treated as 4th class citizens. He sent Mary to be the FIRST Evangelist, telling her, “Go tell Disciples (Men) that I am risen”!

  5. Dave Ribar says:

    You describe the differences in median earnings in terms of childcare responsibilities. However, 2/3 of employed women do not have any children under the age of 18. So, your explanation applies–at most–to 1/3 of employed women.

    Also, don’t these children have fathers? You take mothers staying home for granted but don’t account for pre-existing differences in pay contributing to who stays home.

    Finally, you treat motherhood as the only reason for a worker’s absence. Everywhere I’ve worked, when the weather is nice and golf courses are open, several men (with or without children) do not show up at the office. Also, I’ve seldom seen mothers miss work because of hangovers.

    Rather than relying on observational data, some researchers have used “audit” methods to detect discrimination (think James O’Keefe only with rigor and integrity). In an audit, male and female applicants who are matched in terms of their skills are sent to apply for jobs. For example, Neumark and colleagues (Quarterly Journal of Economics 1996) found that men were substantially more likely to be offered jobs in high-end restaurants than women, while women were more likely to be offered jobs in low-end restaurants than men.

  6. Bob Grenier says:

    Hey Dave…….

    Do you agree or disagree with the following statement made in the original post:

    “If Bob reports to work 98 percent of the time, but Suzy reports to work 85 percent of the time, then, at least as far as attendance is concerned, Bob deserves to make more money than Suzy.”

    Start your answer with “yes, I agree” or “no. I don’t agree”..

  7. Bob Grenier says:

    ” To use Children, Childcare issues to cite poor attendance versus Men’s indigenous inexcusable reasons (listed above) to miss work is “Off the map” of human dignity”

    Sorry it offends you, but like Dave Ribar you’ve not provided any basis to make your moral judgement valid.

    If we use Ribar’s logic, women never take off work for any recreational, or other personal activities. He also insulted women golf aficionados, to boot. Furthermore, time off for child care/mothering issues is defined as personal time off

    Have either of you actually managed people in a real world business environment?

  8. Bob Grenier says:

    “The point is, erroneous,”

    Then why did you even mention your wife’s situation, if not to provide an example to back up your support for the “19 percent” meme?

  9. That’s the problem with short posts. My remarks were not intended to be a full-fledged study of workplace compensation. My only intention was to debunk the knee-jerk “discrimination” argument we so often (and incorrectly) hear. There is almost always a valid reason Person X is paid less than Person Y, regardless of the gender of the people in question. I speak from experience: I have managed people in the real world for years, and I still do. Indeed, as others have remarked here, men also take time off–and not always for such noble reasons as childcare.

  10. Gary Wade says:

    Mr. Davenport, thank you for clarification, I understand your point and basically agree with you. My remarks were based on 30 years of managing people in the workforce and I was releasing a little frustration with incorrect labels applied to workers in general. Men and Women are equally brilliant AND lax in their performances for one reason, they are human! Liberal organizations, like AFL-CIO, ACLU, should be challenged. Thank you.

  11. Nicely stated, Mr. Wade.

  12. Gary Wade says:

    Hey Bob, I guess you are perfect!! It’s rude to tell people exactly HOW to answer a question. The guy sounded pretty intelligent to me. Do you always know more than everyone else?? Look, re-read my post, I said: unjust pay to woman exists for erroneous reasons, NOT my wife’s situation or the point is erroneous, big difference. Next you discount my knowledge of managing people, I have no experience, no supporting facts??? You know this already from a 2 paragraph comment I made??

    Hey, lighten-up, calm down… Take a breath, I’m just a humble, successful Senior Citizen, who spent 42+ years in the workforce, 30 of those years supervising, managing hundreds of people in Multi-million dollar sales environments. IF YOU were a Real Business professional, you wouldn’t come across as being rude to people.

  13. Bob Grenier says:

    “The guy sounded pretty intelligent to me.”

    I have an extensive wealth of previous experience with Dr. Ribar in matters of this sort ,Gary. In addition, he grew up and graduated from high school in my old hometown of Sterling VA,. Those two circumstances give me a keen understanding of how he thinks, and in the way he likes to frame the discussion.

    In regard to being a senior citizen, you have nothing on me. I am 64 years old, and I started in the workforce at age 15. I have a lot of experience doing things most people only dream about, and I’ve seen a broad spectrum of life in numerous places around the world .

    .For the majority of my adult career, I worked for a large company that occasionally made the Fortune 500, is traded on the NYSE, and holds the distinction of being, the largest company on the planet in its particular segment. In addition to my operations/financial/human resources/compliance responsibilities, an important part of my job function involved recruiting/thiring/training/motivating/retaining talent, and making the appropriate decisions required by my position.

    And yes, it’s fair to say I generally know more about how employees function in their jobs than most anyone else does. I also have pretty strong political, social, and economic credentials as a conservative.
    .

  14. Gary Wade says:

    Okay Bob, you and your gregarious, silver lined world credentials as stated, using Me, My and I fourteen times, have Trumped my humble, small scale life. You win!

    All I wanted to do was defend human decency, hard work & dedication by successful employees, both Men & Women, while voicing opposition to liberals “Mandating” same pay for the slackers versus shakers & movers who pay the bills. Second guessing others who are making valid points and listing a life biography doesn’t move the discussion along. Aside from this, you haven’t stated your own view at all, WHAT IS YOUR POINT ANYWAY??? If Bob is a lazy slacker and Suzy works circles around him, works nights, weekends & holidays to meet deadlines, is it okay to pay them equal union scale or FAIR & EQUAL rates?

  15. Dave Ribar says:

    Charles:

    The big issue with detecting discrimination (gender or otherwise) in observational data is that it is almost always a residual (a difference between people of different genders or race after the statistician has tried to account for everything else). There are a lot of reasons, more than either of us could probably come up with, why pay might differ between two people. If any of those reasons also happen to be associated with gender, race or whatever else you are looking at, AND if an analysis fails to account for those reasons then you could find a pay difference even in the absence of discrimination.

    That said, many, many studies have looked at these issues trying to control for all the things that might reasonably be controlled for, and they still find these differences. Also, some of the reasons that people give (like absenteeism) turn out not to have much support when carefully examined.

    When researchers have used experimental designs, like the audit methodology, they have tended to continue to find differences. I just saw one audit study from allegedly progressive Sweden that found differences. The audit studies can be criticized (e.g., they only address a limited aspect of the wage/employment process). However, there is strong evidence of discrimination from those studies.

    The thing that’s harder to determine is how much discrimination there is.

    Bob:

    If I had an employee who could get all of her work done in 85 percent of the time of one her colleagues, I wouldn’t dock her pay.

    Because you come from Northern Virginia, you’ll be familiar with compressed work schedules where employees work longer hours on fewer days but aren’t penalized for those schedules.

  16. Bob Grenier says:

    What’s my point?

    Your original statements talked about “guy stuff” and “Men missing work is real & usually not as Noble a reason!!!” as a misdirected counterpoint to Charles’ original point.

    You also brought up your wife’s employment to illustrate some point or another, then took offense when I used that to bring the discussion back to Charles’ original point.

    And finally, you’re the one who twice discussed your qualifications in this field, apparently as an attempt to establish some authority over the discussion. My brief bio was in direct response to your offerings in that area.

    This is not a “winning’ thing. This is all about correcting the “discrimination” theory so favored by those who make political, social, and economicpoints from marginalizing and exploiting different groups of people by painting them as “victims”.

  17. Dave Ribar says:

    More evidence of discrimination, albeit esoteric. Prior to the 1970s and 1980s, major orchestras auditioned new performers (hired) and conducted challenges for seats among existing performers (promoted) using non-blinded auditions–auditions in which the performer walked out onto the stage and could be viewed by a jury. Beginning in the 1970s and 1980s, some major orchestras began using blinded auditions, in which the artist’s identity was hidden and the artist performed behind a screen. Goldin & Rouse (American Economic Review 2000) examined differences in hiring and promotion rates at orchestras that used blinded and non-blinded auditions. In orchestras with blinded auditions women were 50 percent more likely to advance past the audition. Goldin & Rouse found that the use of blinds accounted for as much as half of the increase in the representation of women in orchestras after the 1970s.

  18. Gary Wade says:

    Thank you Bob, for finally making your point very clear, which I agree with. We were saying the same thing all along, but from two perspectives, sprinkled with verbal jousting. My view is that the human decency, commitment to excelling in bringing more value aspect of pay levels, counts just as much as your Data, Facts, Computer Analysis. In my view, You are correct, Mr. Davenport is correct, the AFL-CIO, ACLU, DNC and the White House Socialists Spread– The– Wealth to ABLE BODIED Non-Producers IS WRONG. We are all friends who desire to restore this country back to Moral & Fiscal Sanity!!

  19. Bob Grenier says:

    “If I had an employee who could get all of her work done in 85 percent of the time of one her colleagues, I wouldn’t dock her pay.”

    Neither would I, but your implication that this is a common misdeed perpetrated on women, and therefore discriminatory, is a major stretch.

    Meanwhile, here’s some common sense on the issue:

    http://www.stlouisfed.org/publications/re/articles/?id=2160

    Excerpts:

    “Despite the accuracy of these numbers, many researchers believe that the mere comparison of median weekly earnings of male and female workers presents an incomplete picture. First, women are likely to work fewer hours than men, which would make a gap in weekly earnings between the two groups substantial even if their hourly wages are the same. For this reason, most economic studies of a gender gap, including all of the studies reviewed in this article, use hourly wages instead of weekly earnings as a measure. Second, many other factors (such as education and labor force attachment) could affect wages. Research suggests that the actual gender wage gap (when female workers are compared with male workers who have similar characteristics) is much lower than the raw wage gap…….

    ……Some researchers believe that it is not enough to compare wages of similar men and women. They argue that total compensation (wages together with benefits) must be compared. Women of child-bearing age may prefer jobs with a lower wage but with employer-paid parental leave, sick leave and child care to jobs with a higher wage but without such benefits. A study that used National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY79) found that female workers were indeed more likely to receive family-friendly fringe benefits.6 Some economists believe that female workers “pay” for the benefits they prefer by accepting a lower wage. If that is the case, excluding fringe benefits would exaggerate the actual gender wage disparity.

    Economists Eric Solberg and Teresa Laughlin applied an index of total compensation, which accounts for both wages and benefits, to analyze how these benefits would affect the gender gap.7 They found a gender gap in wages of approximately 13 percent. But when they considered total compensation, the gender gap dropped to 3.6 percent..”

    Bottom line? Any posture that maintains that a gender pay gap is primary evidence of discrimination is pure agenda driven drivel.

  20. Dave Ribar says:

    Bob:

    Yet ALL of the studies cited continued to find differences. Some as small as 4 percent, others larger.

    You cite Solberg and Laughlin’s (ILRR 1995) study but should realize that their compensation index was exceedingly crude. They did not value fringe benefits directly. Also, they assumed that the value of benefits were the same between men and women. For example, they valued people’s retirement benefits (one of the largest components of fringe compensation) as a fixed cost that did not vary with wages. Similarly, the value of profit-sharing did not vary with wages. They made no allowances for differences in the value of people’s health insurance, and so on. The index that Solberg and Laughlin used has not caught on among economists.

    Another weakness of Solberg & Laughlin is that it focused on people early in their careers (everyone in the study was 26-34); studies of gender differences typically find that these differences are smaller among younger adults than older adults.

    In addition, they used a survey (the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth–1979 cohort) that over-sampled poor and minority people; however, their estimates don’t take any of the sample design issues into account.

    Finally, Solberg & Laughlin ran models in which they controlled for people’s occupations. While this seems like a sensible thing to do, it can mask the effects of segregation by occupation (Solberg & Laughlin found strong evidence of occupational sorting). Most of the prevailing economic theories say that the effects of discrimination should show up in the form of job segregation rather than wages ( http://www.uncg.edu/bae/people/ribar/teaching/ECO735/Notes/discrimination_s11.pdf ).

    As I wrote earlier, it’s very hard to measure the extent of discrimination using observational data on wages. Most studies that have attempted to do this find that accounting for reasonable things that you can observe reduces most but not all of the gender gap. Indeed, YOUR source has written, “Current research suggests that the gender earnings gap disparity has declined but not disappeared” ( http://research.stlouisfed.org/publications/es/11/ES1125.pdf ).There are a few outlier studies that do eliminate the gap, but they can all be nitpicked. Similarly, there are a few outlier studies that continue to find enormous differences; these too can be nitpicked.

    Bottom line…those last few percentage points of wage differences between women and men are really hard to eliminate from the data.

  21. Bob Grenier says:

    !. Most studies find the difference to be significantly less than the 19% numbe cited in the N&R article.
    2. Fringe benefits are difficult to measure, particularly when it comes to things like defined contribution retirement plans, and health care plans that may include contraception and other sexual specific coverage that benefit women..
    3. Controlling for people’s occupation is a valid control, particular in light of some occupations’ tendency to base some or all pay on performance, particularly in sales. As you may know, women’s incomes in certain sales occupations far exceeed those earned be their male counterparts.
    4. “Those last few percentage points of wage differences between women and men” can probably be regarded as practically statistically insignificant in real world measures, unless you want to try to make a case that women’s extra expenses in competing in the business world should be counted as part of the gap.

  22. Bob Grenier says:

    Here’s what the Labor Department’ss Charles E. James, Jr wrote in 2009 about this issue:

    “Although additional research in this area is clearly needed, this study leads to the unambiguous
    conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a
    multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify
    corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be
    almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”

    http://www.consad.com/content/reports/Gender%20Wage%20Gap%20Final%20Report.pdf

    .

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