The NY Times delivers a stats puzzle to its determined readers today. The subject is gender inequality in pay; the subtext, as always, is Republican deceit:
Pay Gap Is Because of Gender, Not Jobs
Are women paid less than men because they choose to be, by gravitating to lower-paying jobs like teaching and social work?
That is what some Republicans who voted down the equal pay bill this month would have you believe. “There’s a disparity not because female engineers are making less than male engineers at the same company with comparable experience,” the Republican National Committee said this month. “The disparity exists because a female social worker makes less than a male engineer.”
But a majority of the pay gap between men and women actually comes from differences within occupations, not between them — and widens in the highest-paying ones like business, law and medicine, according to data from Claudia Goldin, a Harvard University labor economist and a leading scholar on women and the economy.
Ah, well, we knew those lying Republicans were lying liars. Fortunately a Harvard prof is here to set us straight, and will rebut these many studies (Slate, the Atlantic, HuffPo) supporting the Repugs.
Away we go - it's time for fun with numbers!
“There is a belief, which is just not true, that women are just in bad occupations and if we just put them in better occupations, we would solve the gender gap problem,” Dr. Goldin said.
Rearranging women into higher-paying occupations would erase just 15 percent of the pay gap for all workers and between 30 and 35 percent for college graduates, she found. The rest has to do with something happening inside the workplace.
Tell us more.
Take doctors and surgeons. Women earn 71 percent of men’s wages — after controlling for age, race, hours and education. Women who are financial specialists make 66 percent of what men in the same occupation earn, and women who are lawyers and judges make 82 percent.
So female surgeons working the same hours with the same educational and professional background are earning 71 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts? That's even more discrimination than Obama's debunked and derided 77 cent argument.
So is that what the Harvard prof really found? Uhh, not exactly.
Other occupations have managed to narrow or even close the pay gap. As pharmacists, women make 91 percent of what men make and as computer programmers they make 90 percent. Male and female tax preparers, ad sales agents and human resources specialists make equivalent salaries.
So what’s the difference?
We are all ears.
Instead, she said, the trick is workplace flexibility in terms of hours and location.
“The gender gap in pay would be considerably reduced and might vanish altogether if firms did not have an incentive to disproportionately reward individuals who labored long hours and worked particular hours,” she wrote in a paper published this month in The American Economic Review.
Occupations that most value long hours, face time at the office and being on call — like business, law and surgery — tend to have the widest pay gaps. That is because those employers pay people who spend longer hours at the office disproportionately more than they pay people who don’t, Dr. Goldin found. A lawyer who works 80 hours a week at a big corporate law firm is paid more than double one who works 40 hours a week as an in-house counsel at a small business.
Set aside the non-comparison of a big-time corporate law firm with a small in-house counsel. Apparently a female (or male) surgeon working forty hours a week earns less than half of a male (or female) surgeon working 80 hours a week. That, I presume, is what was meant by "controlling for... hours". Does a female working eighty hours a week earn less than a man working the same number hours? That remains unanswered, but I bet if the answer favored the Times position we would be reading about it.
I think we are being told that for every dollar an eighty hour a week surgeon earns, a forty hour a week surgeon earns less than $0.35. For example, if all female surgeons worked forty hours and all males worked eighty, than $0.35 for the women would lead to the $0.71 female/male discrepancy described after controlling for hours in a linear fashion. However, I presume there are some women in the eighty hour group and some men in the forty hour group, so the $0.35 number ought to be even lower to make the arithmetic work.
More from the article:
Jobs in which employees can easily substitute for one another have the slimmest pay gaps, and those workers are paid in proportion to the hours they work.
Pharmacy is Dr. Goldin’s favorite example. A pharmacist who works 40 hours a week generally earns double the salary of a pharmacist who works 20 hours a week, and as a result, the pay gap for pharmacists is one of the smallest.
Pharmacy became such an equitable profession not because of activism but because of changes in the labor market (fewer self-owned pharmacies and more large corporations) and changes in technology (storing patient records on computers where they are easily accessible by any pharmacist).
In other jobs, workers have made these changes themselves. Conventional wisdom is that in jobs like surgery, employees cannot easily substitute for one another and must be on call.
But in one type of medicine, obstetrics, doctors have figured out another way. No longer are many obstetricians on call around the clock. If a baby arrives in the middle of the night, a doctor working an eight-hour shift at the hospital is likely to handle the delivery instead of the doctor who cared for the mother for 40 weeks.
“Somehow in obstetrics we have convinced people that it doesn’t matter which one you’re going to get,” Dr. Goldin said. “It’s just the way that it has to be.”
I'm sure this make me a sexist troglodyte, but the phrase "If a baby arrives" is a bit of a hint - most deliveries are not scheduled (induced deliveries and non-emergency C-sections would be obvious exceptions). My guess is that not many people have emergency colonoscopies, just to pick a recent trauma at random. Most surgeries are scheduled; most babies are not. Vive la difference!
THINGS TO DO: When time permits I really ought to page through the linked paper. A quick pass confirms that the Times reporter sexed up the findings - the author is well aware of economic reasons for non-linear increases in pay with hours worked, and offers a model of same.