David R. Henderson  

My Review of Barbara Bergmann, Part 3

My Review of Barbara Bergmann,... Optimal mutual funds in a worl...

This is the last installment of my 1987 review of Barbara Bergmann's book The Economic Emergence of Women. For the previous two installments, see here and here.

Bergman favors some policies that restrict opportunities for women. For example, she seems to support the 1963 Equal Pay Act, requiring employers to pay men and women equally if they hold identical jobs. The law plainly reduces discrimination in pay--but increases discrimination in hiring. It prevents women from getting a foot in the door by accepting lower wages--as some minorities did in the past. To be sure, we have other laws barring discrimination in hiring. But these laws, as Bergmann concedes, are much harder to enforce than equal pay.

She goes beyond equal pay for equal work to advocate equal pay for "comparable worth." Bergmann would like employers to assign points to the various characteristics of a job, and pay workers according to the number of points, regardless of whether such pay attracts too few or too many capable employees. And what if employers don't do this voluntarily? One solution, she says, would be to have the government set minimum wage levels for the largest "women's occupations." Most economists would instantly assume that such above-market wages guarantee more long-run difficulties for women in finding jobs. Bergmann admits that this is a possibility but rates it most unlikely.

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