The “Gender Pay Gap”: Part 2

A quick recap. Men earn more than women. But this shouldn’t be surprising considering that, compared to women, men work more hours, take less time off (accumulating more experience) and pursue careers in higher paying industries. What’s problematic is how frequently even intelligent people jump (or perhaps teleport) to the conclusion that the difference in incomes must be due to discrimination or bias without even stopping to consider these other factors. It is one thing to be mistaken but it is something else to be confidently mistaken and label those who disagree or question your methods as sexist or ignorant. But if we do a proper investigation, what do we find?

According to Time magazine, “The pay gap between a single, childless woman and her similar male colleague is 0.6%, after controlling for factors like years of experience, education, skills, management responsibilities, and company size…” (source) It’s frustrating that they didn’t mention hours so I’m not sure if they took that into account or not. But a 0.6% difference, huh? I guess discrimination knows no bounds! Prepare the pitchforks! In all seriousness, to still call this a “gap” is to proudly proclaim “I’m a moron” to the world. Your height varies by about the same percentage from morning to night. And don’t forget, just because they’ve adjusted for 8 or so important factors doesn’t mean we can assume that discrimination is the only factor left.

Now this 0.6% figure is looking at men and women who are single and without children. The interesting, if hardly shocking, thing is that when men get married, their pay tends to go up whereas with women, their pay goes down. Why is this? What is it about marriage that splits the sexes in terms of earnings? It’s almost as if something about having children results in fathers making decisions which tend to increase their pay and mothers doing the opposite. This conspiracy is getting deeper by the minute!

This is when I have to stop and point out how I’m far more of a feminist than so-called “feminists” are. I have this crazy belief that women know what they want and will do whatever it takes to go out there and get it. If mothers stay home to look after children while fathers go out and win bread, that’s because they made a mutually beneficial decision between each-other to do things that way. Does anyone doubt that in a marriage, it’s the wife who makes all the decisions?

But “feminists” want to decide on behalf of other women what they really want. How arrogant and presumptuous can you be? And what a lack of faith in the inner strength of women to fight for what matters to them! Some women work, some stay at home, some work long hours while others don’t but it’s always the woman’s choice (abusive relationships are another story). Even if the evidence indicated that women are less aggressive in promoting their careers, for example, that would merely reflect on the attitudes and choices of women themselves. If that was the only thing holding women back, I’d have no hesitation in telling them to pick up their game.

These statistical patterns are not new. Thomas Sowell wrote: “As far back as 1971, single women in their thirties who had worked continuously since high school earned slightly more than men of the same description. As far back as 1969, academic women who had never married earned more than academic men who had never married.” (source) Unfortunately, propaganda has been more effective in stirring the masses than the calm, properly researched writings of economists like Sowell. As much as I’d like to blame politicans and the media, the ultimate source of the problem is the general public. More specifically, anyone who is more interested in passionate calls for action than plain facts and logic. But I’ll have to delve into this another time…

How do we prove discrimination exists in the first place? I believe there are two approaches. One is nearly impossible and the other is trivially easy. The first is to look at broad statistics, control for every conceivable factor (this is optional depending on your integrity) and then whatever “gap” is left over can, by assumption, be attributed to some kind of “institutional discrimination”. A malicious phantom which can’t be seen directly but leaves subtle clues as to its existence. A bit like ghosts. The other way is when an individual or company explicitly discriminates against someone. This tends to leave behind obvious first-hand evidence. For example, a male boss groping a female worker or a meeting room with a sign saying “no women allowed”. In this case, the perpetrator can be targeted directly and held accountable for their actions.

But the second approach is not nearly as exciting as the first. Whereas gravity is dull and obvious, talking to the dead is intriguing and sells tickets. There’s something enticing about the idea that society itself is sexist and somehow biased against women. That men discriminate without even realising it and only through social action can we even things up. It has the same appeal as any good conspiracy theory, which I’m afraid is what it is.

Let’s look at a case study where we can see these two approaches in conflict with each-other. Thomas Sowell wrote: “Years ago, the Sears department store chain spent $20 million fighting a sex discrimination charge that took 15 years to make its way through the legal labyrinth. In the end, Sears won — if spending $20 million and getting nothing in return can be called winning. … In the Sears case, there was not even one woman who worked in any of the company’s 900 stores who claimed to have been discriminated against.” (source)

The charge against Sears was originally brought up because the higher positions at Sears were dominated by men (whereas regular workers were more evenly divided between the sexes). Bear in mind, this statistical evidence did not control for other factors (like years of experience). But on the other hand, there was no explicit evidence of discrimination – not one woman who claimed to have been unfairly treated. Now which are we to trust? First-hand-experience or an overall statistic with no adjustment or analysis?

If you believe that broad statistics are enough to prove discrimination, here are some nefarious examples of human rights abuses in the USA (I’ll list the group and the area in which they’re discriminated against): white people in basketball, non-Indians in spelling bees, non-Kenyans in marathons, non-Asians in average income, men in psychology courses, women in manual labour, boys in dancing, girls in sport, men in staying home and looking after kids, non-blacks in rap and men in being nurses.

Unless you seriously believe that all of these are major issues, you must concede that overall statistics without careful adjustment cannot by-themselves prove discrimination. But who are we kidding? The people who loudly advocate for equal pay for women and drastic action against “the patriarchy” already know in their hearts that women are held back by society. Any piece of information which fits this belief will do, with little consideration of its actual merits. Furthermore, anything to the contrary poses a serious threat to their cause and must be dealth with, preferably by morally denunciation (as opposed to reasoning). This puts facts on a lower standing than agendas, an approach which reminds me of fascism for some reason…

Finally, I want to look at things through a different lens. Let’s say an inventor claimed they had developed a vehicle which could run indefinitely without any power supply. Undoubtedly this would cause a stir of excitement in the general public – the possibilities would be endless! But anyone with a basic understanding of science would be unlikely to take the claim seriously at face-value. They may be quite open to evidence but otherwise remain confident that the whole thing’s a hoax and hence take little interest in it. Why? Because of a simple principle – energy cannot be created or destroyed.

Similarly, anyone who has spent time learning the basics of economics is unlikely to get uproarious over a claim of rampant discrimination in a free market (without some extremely solid evidence). Why? Because of a simple principle – employers care a lot about making money. If a misogynist had a choice between hiring a man who will increase profits for him by 4% and a woman who will increase them by 5%, who would he choose? Of course, we can’t know. But the point is that he faces a dilemma between maximising profits and appeasing his personal tastes. The free market creates strong incentives for employers to hire the most productive individuals available regardless of their superficial attributes. And incentives are like gravity – you can hold a handful of things in the air for a while but your arms will soon get very tired.

“Prejudice is free but discrimination has costs.” – Thomas Sowell

In a competitive market, to discriminate is to burden yourself with less-than-optimum workers. This is not something which is sustainable when every other business is doing whatever they can to beat your prices, steal your customers and hire the best workers. Put another way, companies which don’t discriminate will tend to be naturally rewarded for doing so in a free economic system.

There is no greater weapon against discrimination than a free market.

This may seem counter-intuitive but it’s true. For example, blacks in America started to dominate professional sports well before the civil rights movement began. I doubt this had anything to do with a passionate striving for equality by sports coaches. I’d wager it had much more to do with money and the fact that many talented black sportsmen were able to win games and bring in a lot of fans. And today, sports like basketball and American football are hardly places to find equality (of outcomes) between races. But what you do find is excellence and a severe lack of discrimination. The players are there because they’re the best.

Maybe by now I’ve convinced you that the hysteria surrounding the “gender pay gap” is based on a myth. Or maybe your face is red and you’re convinced that I hate women. Well, it is a myth. But unlike harmless myths about dragons and unicorns, this one is causing a huge amount of damage. Lawsuits like the one against Sears are a burden on the economy, but worse, they pressure companies into carrying out “positive” discrimination in order to avoid such lawsuits.

Many are openly in favour of explicit discrimination against men so that women as a statistical group can have a higher place in the economy. This results in many important positions being filled by a person partially due to their gender rather than preparedness for the role (no negative side-effects, I promise). It can also foster uncertainty and resentment between men and women. “Did I get the job because I was the best or was it a hand-out?” “Why did she get the job? Is there some rule that they have to even up the numbers?”

An unnecessary and destructive war between the sexes is underway and the matriarchy is winning to the detriment of humanity overall.

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About karnok

A legendary ninja.
This entry was posted in Economics, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

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