Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wages Gaps Vive la Difference

Whether it is income inequality or the gap between men’s and women’s wages, we have a President who single-handedly wants to kill that difference. And while it is impossible to argue on moral grounds that it is a good thing for people to be discriminated against, it seems the President is missing some real fundamentals in his quest.

Think of all the cases of differences we mostly accept. Some guys and gals get really tall and become successful basketball centers…and millionaires. Danny DeVito was a tiny man who became a successful actor. Napoleon was pretty tiny too. These guys never would have played center on any basketball team. We say men are from Mars and women from Venus. We celebrate these differences. On a lot of Saturday nights we dance, go to movies, have debates, and otherwise enjoy being with the opposite sex. Vive la difference.

Already some of you are fuming. Larry – it just isn’t fair for a man and woman to have the same job and be paid differently. But that just isn't the case. Before you explode, keep reading. 

What we all want is fair treatment when it comes to pay. But let’s face it – fair is not equal. I was a prof for 30 something years. I saw some pretty horrible profs who neither prepared for class nor did any research. It would have been unfair to pay those jerks the same as others. I also saw award winning profs who were incredible teachers. 
They got better pay raises than most of us and deserved them.

Think about every job you ever had. There were people who came in early, took short breaks, and went home late. Others were not so wedded to their jobs and couldn’t wait to bust out of the building so they could watch their kids play soccer or otherwise enjoy their non-business lives. While you don’t want to stop people from having balanced lives, it also does not seem fair or right to penalize those people who made disproportionate contributions to the organizations’ successes.

And then there is the path to the job. You and I might have the same job and work the same hours – but let’s suppose you grew up in a low income family and were very motivated to exit that status. You worked very hard at school and took the courses that would prepare you for a high income career. Me, on the other hand, born with a golden spoon in my mouth, spent more time playing cards than attending classes and majored in any field that provided a quick path to graduation. Uncle George helped me get my job and I demand to be paid the same as you. Yet I am not not the sharpest tool in the shed and don’t come close to your productivity. Somehow, it doesn’t seem fair to pay us equally.

I could go on and on but the point is made. What someone gets paid ought to have something to do with their contribution to the company or organization. It shouldn’t matter how tall they are, what race they are, their sex, or their parentage. We have laws in this country to prevent discrimination and they should be used and enforced.

What about the 77% stat (or other similar ones) that shows women make less than men for similar jobs? These figures are provocative but not rich enough to support the conclusions. Already there is a competition of stats that show the true number lies somewhere between 77% and 98%. But the truth is that all these numbers fail for pretty much the same reason – they do not bring in all the relevant facts to make comparisons. And they don’t even bring in the most relevant fact of all – how productive are these workers.

One does not have to be a crank to point out that really short people do not excel as basketball centers. Or that music majors often make poor astrophysicists. It is possible that these comparisons work against women for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with misogyny or discrimination. Recall the women are from Venus thing? Women historically and still often play the larger role at home and/or with the children. Women have often been called the second income earner as a choice to promote family stability. Women often need flexible work schedules which sometimes put them at jobs that pay less or which work fewer hours. I haven’t kept up with the latest on women’s schooling or with women’s occupations. But surely women are different from men and these differences imply statistical gaps that have nothing to do with discrimination.

So why does all this really matter? It matters when it comes to every woman in the marketplace who earns a wage. Every woman who works for an organization should be paid according to her productivity. While productivity is no simple thing to measure, every co-worker, every supervisor, every VP, and everyone somewhere close to that woman’s work knows what her productivity is. I have never worked for any organization where productivity was a secret. I was an Airman in the Air Force and worked in an office with about 10 guys. We all knew who the slouches were – and we all knew the guys who made the difference. Let the companies make the decisions. And then let discrimination laws take care of any discrimination that results.

We don’t need the President of the USA sticking his nose into these matters. It doesn’t hurt to raise consciousness so that all people are treated fairly. But proposals requiring even more data from firms won't stop discrimination and have all the potential to harm what is already a very weak economy. The best thing we can do for women is what we do for men. Make them aware of the importance of productivity to one’s material well-being through advising about good choices with respect to education, training, career choices, family decisions, and so on. A woman has the right to choose and those that prefer to NOT maximize future income should have the right of lifestyles that meet their goals while paying them somewhat less along the way. To me that seems fair to those people who choose the opposite. 


  1. Monsieur Professor, it's called "divide and conquer." This administration has it down to a science.

  2. Dear LSD. The $1.00 men to $.77 women wage gap taken at the (dare I say “macro” level) has been reported as fallacious by a couple of newz orgs. The more thorough analysis (at the micro level) shows the gap closer to $1.00 men to $.94-$.96 women when controlled for mudderhood, edukasion, time on kthe yob, and overall work-related experience (as you say); yet Libs/Regressives still pound the discrimination drum.

    That discrimination message is obviously populist intended to pull women voters into the voting booth to pull the blue lever; a bald-faced blatant political strategy to influence the Nov. ‘lections away from ‘bummercare. There’s no effective economic argument there; only a political and “moral” (oh, oh . . . a nudder Lib/Regressive rationale) one.

    Jez grin and bear the misinformation perpetrated by the Libs/Regressives and their left-wing-tiltled-oriented drive-by media. Jez recognize it fer wut it is—a nudder desperate ploy to protect/sustain the depend on govomit philosophy.

    1. Thanks Charles. While I agree with your political assessment, I do think there is plenty of discrimination out there. The stats you quote suggest that "on average" there might not be a lot of wage gap -- but I think there is plenty of discrimination going on out there. As such there ought to be a way to stamp it out without "taxing" every firm.

  3. Fer yer eddyfikshun: http://jewishworldreview.com/cols/sowell041514.php3#.U02-3l5raHc

  4. This comment is not from me -- I am posting this for DANNY --

    Discrimination is alive an well in both gender directions.
    I observed my employer and other major Corporations recruit females for Engineering, Sales and Marketing Positions and make "premium job offers" to the ladies.
    The women with equal credentials to a Male competitor were offered the job 1st and often with a higher starting salary. Fewer women were seeking these positions and the HR departments of similar companies competed for female candidates.

  5. Dear LSD. H-m-m-m-m, seems like “discrimination” is a common topic herein. Yep, plenty of “discrimination” out there. And I infer from that and from the blog commentary that govomit should do something about it. As much as the govomit has tried since Ike’s, JFK’s, LBJ’s big (largess) society, and Nixon’s efforts/legislation to level the playing field (sic: end discrimination)—those efforts have failed. Failed not in degrees—yes, some success—but in total. Like the wars on drugs, poverty, and discrimination based on race, gender, sex (and now gender preference at al) arguably a failure.

    Govomit is neither efficient nor effective in effecting the effects it so euphemistically nomenclatures as desired outcomes.

    I think Danny’s comments contain the essence of this “manufactured” and “populist” issue. Note his inclusion of “competed.” Much of the wage gap and attendant discrimination is due not to blatant and nick’d discrimination, but to the supply/demand and COMPEITION for certain skills, talent, and experience. That in some circumstances a particular characteristic—such as race, sex, religion, etc.—should be factored into a preference/decision should be left to the decision-maker—not the govomit that has proven so feckless in attempting to control/force behaviors and outcomes.

    1. Thanks Charles. First, I think some of your comments do not make a difference between policies to create income equality and those that address discrimination. With respect to the latter, I would say that things have improved markedly since the time we were butting heads on the CGHS football field. Part of the improvement has come from legislation. Much has come through education and experience. While I would argue that great improvements have been made, I think there remains some discrimination in the workplace. As my blog argued, the statistics are not to be trusted. But I do think there are glass ceilings, old boys clubs, and the like that operate against women. That does NOT mean that I support Obama's policies since I think laws are already in place to protect women and others who face job place discrimination. Where it does exist I think it needs to be addressed and remediated.

  6. Dear LSD. Some blog readers might confuse butting heads and buttheads. Can you clarify . . . buttheads butting heads or teenage jocks butting heads like buttheads?

  7. Does “yes” equivocate to how many heads can a butthead butt if a butthead could butt butts?