NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Equal Pay Day Report A Bust

April 5, 2001

April 3, 2001, was Equal Pay Day, a day designated by certain advocacy groups, including labor unions, to tout claims that women earn only cents on the dollar compared to men, due to systematic discrimination in pay.

This year, instead of economy-wide studies claiming that women earn less in jobs comparable in worth to jobs held by men, an unreleased, unpublished survey from the Clinton administration's Department of Labor (DOL) was circulated that found the average woman working on a government contract makes 72 cents for every dollar a man earns.

The three-part D.O.L. Women's Bureau report, "Equal Pay Matters!" was approved by the D.O.L., but is awaiting approval by the Office of Management and Budget. However, an OMB memo dated January 16, 2001, states some objections to the report.

  • According to the White House Bulletin, the memo states the report does "little to improve our understanding of the gender wage gap" and has "some serious errors that could lead to false conclusion[s]."
  • For instance, "Spells of not participating in the labor force (such as for child raising) are not included," says the memo. "These spells reduce both the experience and the continuity of experience, which can reduce wages."
  • And "the role of industry is not adequately explained." For instance, some of the male dominated trades included in the study pay unusually high wages -- but construction jobs may not pay more because they are male-dominated, but because of job characteristics and skill levels required.

Even ABC News' Peter Jennings noted the study "doesn't take into account age, experience, hours or even the job itself." Critics point out that similar objections have been raised to similar studies in past years -- but were largely ignored by the news media.

Source: "Much Touted Wage Gap Report Is Seriously Flawed According To January OMB Analysis," White House Bulletin, April 4, 2001.


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