NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

"Wage Gap" Used to Push Government Setting of Wages

May 11, 2000

In A Closer Look at Comparable Worth, economist Anita U. Hattiangadi and attorney Amy M. Habib find that on average, women and men earn the same salaries up to the point when marriage and family are introduced into the equation.

Among their findings:

  • There is no pay gap among full-time workers age 21 to 35 who live alone, and there is a pay gap of only 3 percent among full-time workers age 21 to 35 who are married but have no children (see figure).
  • As early as 1971, never-married women in their thirties who had worked continuously earned slightly higher incomes than their male counterparts.
  • And today, in almost one-quarter of all dual-earner families, the wife makes more than the husband.

The authors find that marriage and children often influence several of the relevant economic factors that affect wage determination between the sexes, such as experience and tenure, years and type of education, hours of work, and industry and occupation. As a result, a statistical pay "gap" between the sexes can be found, which is wrongly used by activists as evidence of workplace discrimination.

Equal pay for equal work is already the law under the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. But those publicizing the pay "gap" propose fixing the gap by setting wage rates for job categories by administrative method. Points would be assigned to all jobs by government bureaucrats, then pay would be equalized for those in supposedly underpaid jobs that also happen to be dominated by women. This scheme to eliminate the free market determination of wages, termed "pay equity" or "comparable worth," is now being pushed in Congress and 26 states (see figure).

Source: Anita U. Hattiangadi and Amy M. Habib, "A Closer Look at Comparable Worth," May 4, 2000, Employment Policy Foundation, 1015 Fifteenth Street, N.W., Suite 1200 Washington, D.C. 20005, (202) 789-8685.


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