Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Old Canard Returns: Women's Lower Earnings Are All Because of Choice

Dana Loesch, a conservative television host on The Blaze tells us that women earn less ONLY because they "choose" to earn less, that there is no gender wage gap attributable to anything else, and that everybody knows this to be the truth.

I love her audacity and deplore her stupidity, the latter, because economists who actually study the question don't agree with her conclusions.  The world is complicated and the economics of the gender gap in earnings are even more so.

Does it ever annoy you that it's much easier to make soundbites which are not true than to present what is known, so far?  It annoys me, because I'd like to shoot a short soundbite back at our Dana.  Instead, links to relevant material must suffice:

This post provides links to several others for those who really want to get their teeth on the topic.   This post, as well as this one, have more on the idea of "choice" in this context.

Finally, this post talks about a study which the conservatives have widely used to draw the conclusion Loesch makes.  More on the topic here.

I get very angry at the usual conservative political lies about the earnings gap between men and women and also get somewhat angry at the lefty political interpretations of the gross earnings gap* as being completely due to discrimination against women.  The truth is somewhere in the middle.  But no way can we state that it's only feminine choices** which cause the average earnings of women to be lower than the average earnings of men.

*  The gross gap hasn't been adjusted for anything.  It's the net gap, calculated after data is adjusted for non-discriminatory factors such as working hours (if the earnings data is not per hour), education and experience, that economists actually analyze when trying to measure the impact of discrimination on earnings.

In other words, not all of the observed average difference is attributable to differential treatment of women and men in the labor market.

**  As I write in one of the linked pieces, the meaning of "choice" matters here, too.  If the society expects women to be in charge of most child-rearing, shopping, cooking, cleaning and laundry then the options between which individuals choose are already affected by their gender.

Things get even more complicated when we acknowledge that the US labor markets are still largely based on the assumption that someone else than the worker takes care of those chores.

Conservatives toss the term "choice" into the conversation as if everybody was choosing from exactly the same menu for their lives.  But that's not the case, on average, and even less so for poorer workers whom the labor market treats with greater harshness and fewer perks.

Note, also, that there is trivial choice, such as choosing between drinks at dinner, and non-trivial choice.  The latter is the proper interpretation for the production of the next generation.  But most conservatives treat this topic as if having children is just an expensive hobby of no greater societal significance.  Odd, given how "family focused" many of their organizations are.