The Corner

More Abuse of Statistics by ‘Equal Pay’ Advocates

When activists feel that they have too small an audience, a standard tactic is to start claiming that their niche issue speaks to some greater cause. For example, diversity on college campuses is no longer just a matter of affirmative action – it’s essential for learning. Same-sex marriage is not merely an issue of social justice — it’s for public health.” Common Core isn’t just a set of rigorous school standards – it’s a national-security imperative. The list of dubious claims goes on and on.

Enter the National Partnership for Women and Families. The organization has been heavily promoting “Equal Pay Day” and calling for an end to the gender wage gap. But its cause is not just gender equity, you see — it’s the health of our economy in general. From one of its fact sheets:

On average, women employed full time in the United States lose a combined total of nearly $500 billion every year due to the wage gap. These women, their families, businesses and the economy suffer as a result. Lost wages mean families have less money to save for the future or to spend on basic goods and services – spending that helps drive the economy.

But the $500 billion is not somehow lost to the economy. Gender discrimination would redistribute the money to employers and male employees, who would in turn “drive the economy” by spending it. Redistributing money can reduce efficiency — as an income tax does, for example — but it does not make the entire amount disappear!

Of course, as Carrie Lukas has already pointed out for NR, the wage gap is misleading, as it does not control for the different skills, occupations, and life choices made by women. When pressed, advocates say controls can’t explain all of the difference, and then they go on citing the raw difference as if it meant something.

So advocates start with a false premise (women suffer massive wage discrimination), then draw a conclusion (lost wages disappear from the economy) that would not follow even if the premise were true. It’s a double dose of illogic on Equal Pay Day.

Jason Richwine — Jason Richwine is a public-policy analyst and a contributor to National Review Online.

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