David R. Henderson  

Slate's Hanna Rosin on the "Gender Wage Gap Lie"

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Slate has redeemed itself after that awful piece by Allison Benedikt that co-blogger Art Carden criticized yesterday. One highlight of Ms. Benedikt's piece that caught my attention was this:

I went K-12 to a terrible public school. My high school didn't offer AP classes, and in four years, I only had to read one book. There wasn't even soccer. This is not a humblebrag! I left home woefully unprepared for college, and without that preparation, I left college without having learned much there either.

In short, Ms. Benedikt admits that she didn't learn much. And in her piece, she illustrates that fact beautifully.

The redeeming piece is by Hanna Rosin. It's titled "The Gender Wage Gap Lie." The whole piece, which is short, is worth reading. Here's one highlight:

But we're still not close to measuring women "doing the same work as men." For that, we'd have to adjust for many other factors that go into determining salary. Economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn did that in a recent paper, "The Gender Pay Gap."."They first accounted for education and experience. That didn't shift the gap very much, because women generally have at least as much and usually more education than men, and since the 1980s they have been gaining the experience. The fact that men are more likely to be in unions and have their salaries protected accounts for about 4 percent of the gap. The big differences are in occupation and industry. Women congregate in different professions than men do, and the largely male professions tend to be higher-paying. If you account for those differences, and then compare a woman and a man doing the same job, the pay gap narrows to 91 percent. So, you could accurately say in that Obama ad that, "women get paid 91 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men."

And one criticism. The second last sentence is wrong, as, from context, it is clear that Ms. Rosin understands. The gap doesn't narrow to 91 percent. The gap narrows to 9 percent.

Notice, by the way, that she quotes from work by Harvard's Claudia Goldin. Professor Goldin wrote the Concise Encyclopedia's article "Gender Gap."

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CATEGORIES: Labor Market

COMMENTS (9 to date)
Becky Hargrove writes:

Allison said "I only had to read one book". Which makes me wonder the degree to which other public and private schools actually echo her own experience, i.e. leaving out vital aspects of education. Unfortunately I have no way to think about it logically, because I always expected at a young age to do a lot of learning outside the classroom without giving it a second thought - whether the vast quantities of books I read with no prompting, or the piano lessons I took that were not school related.

The reason her article was painful for me was the degree to which I had previously taken for granted the ability to use skills such as I learned outside the classroom. In my twenties and thirties and even forties, I was in fact able to do so in any number of ways. But the last time I tried to teach piano, I ended up pitching at both public and private schools with no takers. Was I "competing" with them? They acted as though I were. But this is why I believe every person alive needs to be able to pitch their skills sets to the public every semester, so that education can once mean what it is supposed to. I'll always have a soft spot for education. But not for the way it isolates community and makes far too many people believe that life stops or goes elsewhere at high school graduation, in one's own community.

[broken url fixed. -- Econlib Ed.]

NZ writes:

In my interpretation, Benedikt's argument was essentially this:

1. Public goods don't work without contribution. The most important contribution to public schools is bright/well-behaved kids (dumb/poorly-behaved kids are a subtraction). Thus, to have good public schools, parents need to enroll their bright/well-behaved kids.

2. Since genetics and home environment are the strongest influences on children, bright/well-behaved kids will do fine, even in rough public schools, plus the roughness will help prepare them for the real world.

3. There used to be a patriotic sensibility about public school, that it was something all Americans should help sustain. Even upper-middle class parents used to consider it a kind of civic duty. (Noblesse oblige, if you will.) That sensibility has vanished.

What's so "awful" about that?

If people had the same attitude about the military that they do about public school, would our country be able to defend itself?

Plus, can one Slate article really "redeem" such a generally lousy publication?

MingoV writes:

I, too, went to a mediocre public school system in a small town in upstate NY. I hadn't even heard of AP courses until I was in college. We had to read only a few books in high school English classes. I learned English grammar from taking German, not from English classes. The physics class was bad beyond belief. But, a crappy school doesn't preclude getting an education. You just have to do much of it yourself.

Bad teaching also occurs in college (and, seemingly, in a greater percentage of courses each year). If a course is poorly taught, you can study the assigned textbook, read other books and journal articles, and talk with students who know the subject matter. You also can transfer to a better college. Given these options, I have little patience for those saying "woe is me, I didn't learn anything in college."

tom writes:

"For every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 70cents. That's not fair, that doesn't make sense, the man's only left with 30."

Bo Burnham

BZ writes:

No soccer in high school? Psh! No one plays soccer past the age of 10 or 11-- everyone knows that!

David R. Henderson writes:

No soccer in high school? Psh! No one plays soccer past the age of 10 or 11-- everyone knows that!
BZ, my daughter's high school had soccer. And my peak athletic performance when I was in high school was when I was on our high school team in the provincial finals.

Quinn writes:

The Slate article is really good, and i'm glad to hear more voices speaking up about not only the true number, but more importantly the cause of that number. It's easy to excuse it away as simple discrimination, too easy. If people want a real change then they need to find the real issues at heart, and in some cases it may not be an issue at all.

Chris writes:

I've never seen any wage gap studies try to control for gender IQ differences. Has anyone else?

David writes:

Why do you never hear anything about the fact that women spend more than men? Far more. And own more wealth too.

Just who is exploiting whom anyway?

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