The Corner

The 77-Cents-on-the-Dollar ‘Equal Pay’ Stat Might Finally Be Dead

Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner makes a sharp observation about the president’s speech Tuesday night. The president said, “Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work,” but he didn’t claim that we have to do so because women are paid just 77 cents on the dollar men earn — since that’s, well, not true or is at least massively misleading. (There also already is a law that says what the president wants; trial lawyers just want another law.)

The White House, and Democrats in general, have flogged this statistic — which reflects just the gap between the wages of full-time male workers and full-time female workers, regardless of seniority, industry, or skills — for years, especially around “Equal Pay Day,” which falls sometime in April.

But as Ashe notes, 2014 was a little different: White House economic adviser Betsey Stevenson publicly admitted that it’s not a fair representation of the gap women may face due to discrimination or their gender alone.

“I agree that the 77 cents on the dollar is not all due to discrimination,” Stevenson, a Michigan economics professor, said. “No one is trying to say that it is. But you have to point to some number in order for people to understand the facts.” That was a little too much publicity for this noble lie, and Stevenson soon walked it back, making some nonsensical comments trying to shore up the significance of what she seems to know is a misleading, hyperbolic number.

The debate won’t be over, of course, and I expect plenty of liberals to continue on with the 77-cent charade, but maybe some Democrats have moved onto slightly more honest territory. There is some gap between men and women’s pay in similar positions, but whether enough of that is due to justiciable discrimination to justify a new federal law is quite another question entirely.

In the meantime, that misleading 77-cent ratio is shrinking year by year, for what that’s worth, as women in younger generations earn much closer to what men earn: I believe it’s 78 or 79 cents now.

Patrick Brennan — Patrick Brennan is a writer and policy analyst based in Washington, D.C. He was Director of Digital Content for Marco Rubio's presidential campaign, writing op-eds, policy content, and leading the ...

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