Bogus AAUW study perpetuates wage gap myths

Diana Furchtgott-Roth | Washington Examiner | October 30, 2012 

Now for the latest salvo in the wage gap myth, a report entitled “Graduating to a Pay Gap” from the American Association of University Women.

Authored by AAUW anthropologist Christianne Corbett and Director of Research Catherine Hill, the press release states that “just one year out of college, millennial women are paid 82 cents for every dollar paid to their male peers. Women are paid less than men even when they do the same work and major in the same field.”

The AAUW recommends passing more pay equity legislation, such as the failed Paycheck Fairness Act, to require firms to provide more information to the government about pay practices and increase penalties for discrimination.

Buried in the report is the finding that, accounting for college majors and occupations, women make 93 cents (not 82) on a man’s dollar. The remaining seven cents, the authors contend, is likely due to discrimination, because they cannot explain it. So let me offer a possible explanation for them: The study’s occupational categories are too broad. One cannot draw precise conclusions about pay equity when comparing workers within fields such as “Other White Collar,” “Business and Management” and simply, “Other Occupations.”

A footnote tells readers that “Other White Collar” includes “social scientists and related workers … ; lawyers, judges, and related workers; education, training, and library occupations … ; arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations; social science research assistants; and law clerks.” So, the AAUW report compares the pay of male lawyers with that of female librarians; of male athletes with that of female communications assistants. That’s not a comparison between people who do the same work.

“Other Occupations” includes jobs in construction and mining, a high-paying, male-dominated occupation, and also jobs in food preparation and serving occupations, a low-paying, female-dominated occupation. If a waitress is paid less than a miner, does it follow that it’s because she’s been discriminated against?

In order to show discrimination, the report should document differences in salaries of men and women in the same job with the same experience. If there’s a big difference under those circumstances, then there may be discrimination, giving women grounds to sue. The AAUW study didn’t even look at men and women in the same field, much less on the same job.

Why would the AAUW put out such shoddy material? Lisa Maatz, director of public policy and government relations at AAUW, answered this question at the AAUW media conference call when the study was released.

Maatz said that part of the reason the AAUW wants to do this work is that it has an extensive get-out-the-vote movement. In this sense, she continued, this report is very well-timed. The AAUW get-out-the-vote program has been targeting millennial women to get to the polls. This particular year, the AAUW has made a huge investment in trying to get millennials to vote.

It seems that the AAUW is twisting the data to get young women to feel that they are victims of discrimination and march out and vote for President Obama, who is promising pay equity.

But since Obama assumed office in January 2009, women have fared poorly. The percentage of employed women in the population has declined from 57 percent in January 2009 to 55 percent in September 2012. (Data for October are expected Friday.) Over the same period, the number of unemployed women increased from 4.4 million to 4.9 million.

President Obama says he’s in favor of equal pay, but women staffers in his White House are paid 90 cents on a man’s dollar — if one calculates the figure incorrectly based on simple averages.

If women actually were paid 82 cents on the dollar for the exact same work as men, they could sue. They are too smart to believe the AAUW’s political propaganda.

Examiner Columnist Diana Furchtgott-Roth (, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.


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