Unequal Pay for Unequal Work

Here is the main part of a posting from1/22/13. It’s important but a little difficult for some so, I re-post it now with the original comments (and with trash I don’t know how to get rid of.)

President Obama has warned us openly after his re-election: He is going to go on several new offensives to increase the intervention of the federal government into everything. One of his lines of attack will be the alleged injustice in the alleged disparity between the earnings of employed men and women . (The famous “seventy cents on the dollar,” or “sixty cents,” it does not matter. It’s called ignorantly, “the gender gap.”) Of course, it suggests stark, powerful, continuing sex discrimination. In fact, it’s the most successful social science fraud ever.

It’s based on unexamined averages.

One of the common comparisons in earnings by sex is thoroughly dishonest. It goes like this:

Among people who work forty hours or more, men earn significantly more money than women. However, men who work more than forty hours, on the average, work more than women who work more than forty hours. (Read this again slowly; it’s easy to become confused.) Working longer hours is good for one’s career, it turns out. Career success, in turns is reflected in higher income.

The numbers look like this:
Average work week for men who works forty hours or more: 56
Average work week for women who work forty hours or more: 42
(Those are made-up numbers and only for the purpose of illustration.)

The point is that “40 hours or more” may mean anything from forty hours plus one minute to eighty hours, and even more.

Here are other relevant research findings:

1 Senior men earn more money that men with low seniority.
Working women have lower seniority than working men, on the average.

2 Men with a higher level of education earn more than men with a lower level of education.
On average, working women have lower levels of education than do working men.

3 Some industries inherently have higher level of remuneration than others.
Why this should be is interesting in itself but an unresolved issue. It’s is true that low-pay industries tend to employ many women. Whether the industries are low-pay because they employ many women (who don’t fight back) or whether they attract many women because they are undemanding and therefore poorly remunerated, is an interesting question. I don’t know the answer to this question. (Good PhD topic, someone!)

Let me summarize: Poorly educated women with low seniority who work in certain bad sectors, such as clothing retail, earn less money than well educated men with high seniority who work in oil-fields, for example.


It’s not hard to figure out at least some hypotheses about why women in the work force should have lower education, lower seniority, concentrate in certain occupations (close to home?) connected with certain industries, and work shorter hours (even when full-time) than do men: Child care is primarily a female responsibility.

You may think it’s unfair but don’t blame employers, blame husbands, and the women who are too weak-willed , carnally, (bed-wise) to resist them.

If government programs are needed to change this situation, they should be announced openly, not under the pseudo-guise of equal pay. (Or, one might even address complaints to Mother Nature and to the disgusting games she plays with hormones.)

4 Black women earn more than black men on the average.

Why in the world would that be? What does this tell you about sex discrimination?

None of this is especially new. Sociologists have known all this for a long time, at least, those who read their scholarly journals. There is a good chance this information will surface again whenever the administration starts pushing for “equal pay for equal work.” Here is my prediction, there is going to be a quick shift to “equal pay for equivalent work,” in the political arena, specifically The shift is going to be so smooth, many people, most people, won’t notice. It’s going to be like the fast slide from “global warming” to “climate change.” (“Globe isn’t warming anymore, let’s change the subject and pretend we didn’t ever say it did”)

Then, there will be committees of sociologists and government bureaucrats to decide what is “equivalent work,” which will constitute a deep breach of the market economy principles that served us so well for our whole history. (And would anyone be surprised if some of the committee members were unfireable federal employees re-settled from the ever-failing US Post Office?)

Sociologists will decide. The horror!

Does any of this demonstrate or indicate that there is no pay discrimination against women? No, it does not. I am only pointing out that the slogan I hear most often on the topic is thoroughly misleading. And, in general, my experience says that if you have to mislead people about your cause it’s a bad cause. But, this is quite far from a proof. But, my experience also says that some employers actively discriminate in favor of women on pay. Hence, the honest research question would seem to be: What is the net effect of sex on pay. “Net” means: pay shortfall due to being female minus excess remuneration due to being female. I wonder if any social scientist has the balls to conduct such research. My guess is that if any does or do, it will be a woman or women.

Technical note: I refrain from spending the half day it might take me to dig out the references for the statements of fact above. It should be enough that I say that: a) I am proffering them in good faith and at a significant risk to my reputation; b) I satisfied myself when I read them that they came from good sources (blind, double- refereed scholarly journals of the first rank.)

Yet, it ‘s always possible that the evidence on which the statements rest was nullified more recently in studies that did not come to my attention. To guard against this (unlikely) event, I rest on the magic of the Internet, like Wikipedia, for example. If any of those statements have become false, someone will correct me, I think. At any rate, my faithful liberal critic on this blog. Prof. Terry is coming back soon from a foreign assignment. He is a well-trained sociologist who will be glad to light into me if there is the slightest opportunity.(07/12/13 . He did come back. He did not contradict me on the facts. He just nit-picked from pique.)

A footnote on fairness. The president’s new domestic agenda, when you can see through the junk, is the same old litany of solutions to the various problems of unfairness that’s always the socialist agenda. Here are my own two cents about the unfairness of American society.

When I emigrated to this country at age 21, I was a high-school dropout from my own country of origin and I possessed no skills at all. I had no money; this means “zero” money, not “only a little bit of money.” I had not much more than the shirt on my back.

I received a very good education in this country and I spent much of my adulthood doing what I like best and also getting paid to read books. I sent my two children to college as far as they wanted to go. I am now living in relatively comfortable retirement in a part of the world I love, between my house (that I own with the bank) and my boat (all paid for). I write every day for the pleasure of it. I read every day. I fish in the summer. I take my grand-daughter to the beach.

When my wife came to me, she hardly even had a shirt on her back (but what a back, I add gallantly!) She is an artist. She has spent the past ten year painting and also half of the twenty years preceding. And in case you are wondering, no, her paintings have not made us rich.

Ah, ah, I hear you thinking, you don’t understand you, poor chump foreigner, you had it easy because you are a white man. Well, I guess so, but my wife is a “woman of color.” And, so are my two adopted children.

So, here you go, the US is an unfair society that must have made an exception in my case, and only in my case, N. S. !


1. ranugupta1
January 23, 2013 at 6:23 pm (Edit)
Hi Captain,
Nice post. Enjoyed reading. Thought provoking like most of your writings. Haven’t been able to keep up with your blog due to a somewhat demanding work schedule.
Was intrigued by your statement that black women actually make more compared to black men, which also presents very solid support for your reasoning.
But what do you think of this recent publication (link attached) by AAUW that indicates black women earn 93% of their male counterparts.
Also I am not sure if you have, (and you very well may have) considered the following. There are essentially two types of jobs:
1) Exempt jobs which are exempt from Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) because the work is really output driven and not linked to hours worked during a week. Example would be all managerial jobs. In these roles, hours as a basis for pay disparity between men and women would be irrelevant, since you are being held accountable to output. If men work more hours, it may just imply they are less efficient than their female counterparts.
2) Non exempt jobs governed by FLSA which are paid hourly and driven entirely by actual hours worked. In which case the wage comparison is really based on hourly wage paid for men and women, making the hours worked irrelevant.
Your arguments with respect to higher levels of education and nature of industry make perfect sense and hopefully will be examined in greater detail by the people responsible for making these decisions.
We all know that the political outcome of this last election wasn’t to your liking, and while I do not share your anguish, I do empathize. However I also wonder if you are painting everything with too broad a brush and in some cases willing to throw the baby out with the bath water (just because you don’t like the baby’s mother!). Come to think of it, equal pay for equal work may not be such a bad thing from a conservative perspective, as it can only promote greater competition and foster a more efficient workforce, squeezing much needed fresh blood into the heart of our free market capitalistic economy.
PS: My apologies posted the original comment in the wrong section!

January 23, 2013 at 9:20 pm (Edit)
Emperor Gupta: You got me confused (not a bad result actually).
First, I am absolutely for equal pay for equal work because I am a conservative. I think the market makes this happen (roughly) is no one interferes. If the market did fail, a rare occurrence, I would be in favor of doing something to remove whatever obstacle prevents it, the market, from filling its function. That would be the case, for example, if there were laws, as in apartheid South Africa, preventing employers from paying anyone as much as they wished. Even authoritative government intervention backed by the threat of state violence would not be out of the question for me in that situation.
Other than this, I am be too dense, or I may be too tired, or I may be too old, but I don’t understand where your sophisticated distinctions lead.
My errand, on the other hand, is clear, I think (I thought): Put together the several study findings I offer and the idea that working women only earn 70 cents on the working man’s dollar shows for what it is: irrelevant.
I think it ‘s a great slogan expressing a thoroughly dishonest idea.
Please, don’t be timid about being more didactic and lead me (us) step by step.
On the general picture of the post election America, I am not painting anything with too broad a brush. The general direction this coun try is moving now, with Barack at the tiller is quite worse than I expected in November. It’s not as if I did not know where we are going. I have been there, I come from there. I think the US will soon become a much second-rate France unless one of two things happen: 1 a disaster of national magnitude or, 2 A giant gold find (figuratively). I don’t wish for the first. The second may happen in the form of a sudden energy revolution if Pres, Obama does not succeed in killing it.
I suspect him of wanting equality even if at the cost go impoverishing everyone. (There are historical precedents not far off from us.)
PS The commentator is a human resources specialist in he southern Bay Area of California.

2. Bobby
January 23, 2013 at 11:09 pm (Edit)
I read somewhere in the past (paraphrasing)
… if a sexist misogynistic evil white business owner could pay a WHITE FEMALE 70% of the pay and get the same production, why would they pay the WHITE MALE their “100%” of wages?
Essentially meaning the alleged sexist misogynistic evil white business owner would be willing to pay another White Male 40% MORE than a female simply because the WHITE MALE has a penis!
Seems to be a bad business model

January 24, 2013 at 8:09 am (Edit)
Exactly! Well put. If you think about it, it would make more sense for a female employer to pay extra that way.

3. ranugupta1

January 24, 2013 at 10:09 am (Edit)
Hi Captain,
I am as you a firm believer in the merits of a free market economy and the great social leveller it is. Irrespective free markets are run by us the people and whether we accept it or not we are imperfect creatures and emotions and pre-conceived notions play a bigger role in our decision making than we are willing to realize or accept.
My belief is that in a free market utopia, large government would have no role, infact one should not need a government at all, and people would be perfectly capable of self governing.
I would argue that the role of government in a free market system should in some ways only be to preserve the free market system by imposing checks and balances on our imperfect human nature, and thereby keep us from anarchy and self destruction.
And then it becomes the question of how much government (checks and balances) is too much. Personally my bias is the less the better, but not at the detriment of any sub set of humanity. A check and balance that ensures a fairer and more equal social system will only promote competition, furthering the cause of free market capitalism, making for a fatter and richer America that we all adore!

January 24, 2013 at 4:26 pm (Edit)

Ranu: In a free market, the male employer who would yield to the great temptation to grant higher pay to his employees with a penis would place himself at a disadvantage with respect to his competitors. Idem for a female employer.
He (she) would have to be superior to them in some respect to survive this negative handicap. Thus, employers practicing sex discrimination against female employees would have to be superior.
This has nothing to do with fairness, with subjectivity, with intentions, with what’s in the hearts of people. The market acts mechanically on actual behavior, not on motivations.
I think we are not talking about the same thing when we say, “market.”

4. Nick
January 24, 2013 at 5:39 pm (Edit)
I was wondering! Perhaps feelings of being entrapped by the government can be lessened by the idea that “we all belong to the earth”

5. Terry Amburgey
January 25, 2013 at 9:45 am (Edit)
“Here is my prediction, there is going to be a quick shift to “equal pay for equivalent work.”
Leave it to Jacques to ‘predict’ something that happened decades ago. There are consulting companies that make big bucks using arcane algorithms to establish equivalencies. Look at it as another entreprenuerial opportunity, that should cheer you up.

January 25, 2013 at 1:34 pm (Edit)
Thank you, Prof. Terry and welcome back. You have to admit that predicting the past is a good way to avoid mistakes.
Seriously, there has not been a political call for equal pay for equivalent work at any time on a national level, I believe. There was an attempt to do that in San Jose, CA several years ago. I think it went nowhere.

6. Terry Amburgey
January 25, 2013 at 9:47 am (Edit)
“The market acts mechanically on actual behavior, not on motivations.”
One word for you regarding ‘the market’: reification. Pretend you’re a sociologist and look it up.

January 25, 2013 at 1:37 pm (Edit)
Prof. Terry: I know what reification is.
The word “market” is inherently a reification. The market even has a hand. It’s “in-visible.”
I also know how to spell “entrepreneurship.” (My, my, are we getting bitchy! What a relief.)
A reification means treating an abstraction as if it were a person with insights and with a will. The “market” is not a person and it has neither insight nor will. It often acts like a person though. The whole story is told in the still-magnificent “The Wealth of Nations. ” by Adam Smith. In my admittedly limited experience, by and large, American sociologists have heard of it but not read it. I have read it. That makes me special, I can declare without false humility. It made a deep impression on me.
My response to the reader’s comment was right on the mark (if I say so myself).

7. Pingback: Equal Pay for Equal Work: The New/Old Trojan Horse; Unfairness « Notes On Liberty (Edit)

8. Jacques Delacroix
July 11, 2013 at 8:48 pm (Edit)
Update: On early comment on this blog (the first comment) referred me to a “study” by the American Association of University Women:
Aside from the technicality that I was not able to find it, I would probably devote little time to reading it. Studies by pressure groups – which this association is – are not worth the paper they are printed on or the space on the screen they occupy. If there is an exception to this rule of thumb , please someone, educate me.
I made the standards clear: peer-reviewed articles in serious scholarly journals. That’s because it’sa quality label though not an infallible one.
Propaganda is fine but it should not pose as “study.” College professors commit this act of bad faith all the time. I know, I used to live there.
By the way, if the commentator were right and Black women earned so much as 93 % of BLack men’s earnings, this would also be interesting: Why so much closer to men’s earnings than white women’s? What does this tell you about sex discrimination?

9. Terry Amburgey
July 12, 2013 at 4:16 am (Edit)
“I made the standards clear: peer-reviewed articles in serious scholarly journals. That’s because it’sa quality label though not an infallible one.”
I take it that you will refrain from citing propaganda rags like the Wall Street Journal [the print version of Fox “News”] in the future?

Jacques Delacroix
July 12, 2013 at 8:42 am (Edit)
This is not a straightforward comment, Terry. You should avoid simple irony because it confuses even you.
The WSJ is itself. It’s not a peer-reviewed scholarly journal. It has a excellent record regarding facts and regarding the correction of it infrequent mistakes. There is, for example, no Jason Blair episode in the history of this newspaper. Its track record regarding facts is also a label of quality.
The fact that you don’t like the WSJ ‘s editorial positions should have no implication for its factual credibility. Same with Fox News: When it’s wrong, it’s wrong. When it’s not wrong, it’s not wrong. Simple.
Your interventions contribute to making this blog interesting but it’s not always clear what goal you purse in any specific a case. In this case, are you trying to convinced readers that a “study” by an avowed pressure group such as the American Association of University Women should be given much credence?
I don’t know how you can void answering this question with a “yes” or “no” or with omething very close. And it seems to me that you should answer before you enter into some complex disquisition full of nuances and un-annouced implications.
Habitual reliance on innuendos does not make for clear thinking. It’s a plague of the political left. That’s one reason why it cannot see the obvious about current Obama policies, for example, that accomplish nothing that it prizes. Lack of clarity makes it difficult to say, “Oops, we messed up big time with this guy.”
This does not come from the WSJ, or from Fox News, or from Rush Limbaugh; this is a straightforward Delacroix observation + opinion. It’s not a scholarly product. It’s not an assertion of fact. It’s food for thought.

About Jacques Delacroix

I write short stories, current events comments, and sociopolitical essays, mostly in English, some in French. There are other people with the same first name and same last name on the Internet. I am the one who put up on Amazon in 2014: "I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography" and also: "Les pumas de grande-banlieue." To my knowledge, I am the only Jacques Delacroix with American and English scholarly publications. In a previous life, I was a teacher and a scholar in Organizational Theory and in the Sociology of Economic Development. (Go ahead, Google me!) I live in the People’s Green Socialist Republic of Santa Cruz, California.
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