How many times have you heard that “women are paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men”? Barack Obama said it during his last campaign. Women’s groups say it every April 9, which is Equal Pay Day. In preparation for Labor Day, a group protesting outside Macy’s this week repeated it, too, holding up signs and sending out press releases saying “women make $.77 to every dollar men make on the job.” I’ve heard the line enough times that I feel the need to set the record straight: It’s not true.
The official Bureau of Labor Department statistics show that the median earnings of full-time female workers is 77 percent of the median earnings of full-time male workers. But that is very different than “77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.” The latter gives the impression that a man and a woman standing next to each other doing the same job for the same number of hours get paid different salaries. That’s not at all the case. “Full time” officially means 35 hours, but men work more hours than women. That’s the first problem: We could be comparing men working 40 hours to women working 35.
This is a fairly decent breakdown that doesn’t deny a gap exists (that’s another discussion, but let’s stick with baby steps as this is Slate), it just explains why it is ridiculous to try and reduce the issue into a cutesy phrase:
The point here is not that there is no wage inequality. But by focusing our outrage into a tidy, misleading statistic we’ve missed the actual challenges. It would in fact be much simpler if the problem were rank sexism and all you had to do was enlighten the nation’s bosses or throw the Equal Pay Act at them.
The author, Hanna Rosin, seems to sincerely want to change the reality, which is why she wants to move past the talking point and into a real conversation.
A more veteran observer of Democrats, however, might say that they really have no vested interest in having one of their favorite “We’ll fight for you!” talking points ever go away. It’s been, oh, a whopping 5 hours or so as of this writing since a prominent Democrat brought it up at the DNC (albeit with a two cent adjustment for inflation or senility).
The “77 cents” line is easy to throw around, and more difficult to refute quickly, which is where the left always wins on these things. Emotional ploys based on half-truths will most always triumph over detailed rebuttals that involve logic and math. Now you can just keep a copy of this bookmarked and say, “Don’t believe me, believe Slate.”