Hanna Rosin corrects an inaccurate claim!


We liberals decide to fight back: Last Friday, Hanna Rosen corrected an inaccurate claim—an inaccurate claim that is frequently made.

Especially in this tribal era, news orgs should be doing this sort of script-checking on a regular basis. For ourselves, we were struck by some of the reactions to Rosin.

What claim was Rosin correcting? It was a bit of a Labor Day special. She defined the inaccurate claim right in her opening paragraph:
ROSIN (8/31/13): How many times have you heard that “women are paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men”? Barack Obama said it during his last campaign. Women’s groups say it every April 9, which is Equal Pay Day. In preparation for Labor Day, a group protesting outside Macy’s this week repeated it, too, holding up signs and sending out press releases saying “women make $.77 to every dollar men make on the job.” I’ve heard the line enough times that I feel the need to set the record straight: It’s not true.
“Women are paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.” Rosin was saying that this familiar statement is false.

We fact-checked that claim in May 2012. Here’s why:

Rachel Maddow had made the familiar claim on Meet the Press. The next night, she said she couldn’t understand why Alex Castellanos had told her the claim was wrong.

On her own MSNBC program, Maddow said she had “spent a long time” that day trying to figure why Castellanos challenged her statement. She just couldn’t do it, she said, thereby making a second claim, one which seemed to be blatantly false.

Is it true? Are women are paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men? In reality, no one who works in this field actually makes that familiar assertion. Maddow interviewed an expert who explained that the real wage gap is something on the order of 5 to 10 cents on the dollar—not the walloping 23 cents Maddow had originally claimed.

(This being the Maddow show, the expert managed to say this in such a way that viewers probably wouldn't realize that Maddow had been contradicted.)

For our money, Rosin did an imperfect job explaining this situation. That said, she seemed to end up saying that experts claim a wage gap of maybe 9 cents on the dollar, not the famous 23 cents.

Rosin had corrected a familiar bogus assertion. At first, she drew complimentary comments. Then the pushback began from the pseudo left.

For our money, this produced the most interesting part of this piece.

For many years, we liberals laughed at the way the other tribe refused to accept straightforward facts which didn’t fit their tribal preconceptions. As we liberals have emerged from our decades-long naps and have begun to create our own liberal orgs, it’s sad to see the way some in our tribe rush to ape that conduct.

No, Virginia! No one claims that women are paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same or equal work! But once the ball got rolling, quite a few liberal commenters pushed back against Rosin for saying this.

Our tribal mates found various ways to denounce the heretical Rosin. This is exactly what we once condemned the other tribe's ditto-heads for.

Had Rosin cited data from studies? Some readers refuted those studies with comments like this, in which a reader described her daughter’s experience on one job:
COMMENTER: My daughter recently had a job where every employee did all of the same jobs. Women lifted cases alongside of men; no one was cut any slack for their gender. She had experience in the field, and tried to negotiate for a higher starting salary, and was told no, this is what we pay. A month later, a young man with no previous experience was hired, and was given $2 more per hour starting salary. At review time, everyone was tied to a percentage increase, so my daughter could never get parity. Now, what was your unresearched assertion, Ms. Rosin?
You might think that was the rare dumb bunny within our liberal tribe. Even if true, her daughter’s single experience couldn’t refute what Rosin had said! But in this comment, an angry professor took the same basic approach:
COMMENTER: This makes me angry. I was a professor at a major university, yet got less, far less pay than my male colleagues. A male counterpart with a similar background (degrees, experience, etc.) earned almost twice as much as I did. Closer to 60 cents to the dollar...I'm here to say that, in some cases, the system is just plain not treating everyone fairly.

This was not just my experience by every woman I discussed this with at the university. Oh, and by the way, if you think that we all got large salaries—untrue. A friend of mine was a special education teacher in public schools and earned quite a bit more than I did. And we all know how well paid public school teachers are paid (lol).
Nothing in Rosin’s piece denied the claim the professor was making—the claim that, “in some cases, the system is just plain not treating everyone fairly.” Indeed, Rosin’s suggestion that there is a 9 percent gap assumes that people in some cases are not being treated fairly.

The professor got angry all the same! Meanwhile, a future physician went out in the field and slaughtered a whole row of straw men. She ended by refuting a claim Rosin hadn’t made:
COMMENTER: Oh of course! Women just don't want the same jobs as men. It's not as if there's a societal sexism component to this "decision" that so many of our young women make about their "natural suitability" so-called "nurturing professions" like nursing or teaching…And I won't even ask about whatever disgusting pseudo-science is behind the idea that women are "worse at negotiating starting salaries" or that "women just don't want to work the same way men do".

Few things sadden me more than a woman who buys into sexism. I will be a working physician starting next year, and even a 91 percent wage gap for every hour I spend busting my behind in the same fashion as my male co-workers is much too much for me, thank you. And by the way, you can't refer to something as discrimination and then lay responsibility at the feet of the discriminated party and their "choices."
Had Rosin said that a 9 percent wage gap was OK? Many commenters seemed to think she had—or perhaps that she had said there was no wage gap at all:
COMMENTER: So...87 [sic] cents on the dollar. No problem then.

COMMENTER: So the fact that my COWORKERS, do the SAME WORK in the SAME PLACE for the SAME HOURS as I do what I do, probably make 10 percent more than I do, doesn't present a gender gap? Explain how you figure that, since we have (on average) the same experience, but I have more certifications in what we currently use? And they typically come to me to show them how to do what we all do?

COMMENTER: Why is even a 91 percent gap ok?? If items were priced according to the industry gap, with women paying 91 percent of the price for the same house as a man for example, that gap would disappear in a heartbeat.
Other commenters simply assailed Rosin’s motives. And some could see the real problem here—even if Rosin’s claim is accurate, admitting it will only help The Other Tribe!

Also, inevitably, Rosin is racially suspect:
COMMENTER: The author is an MRA [Men’s Rights Activists] mouthpiece and nothing more.

COMMENTER: I enjoy reading poorly written articles that rely on a very selective choice of resources and data for very narrow sectors of society. Helps sharpen my understanding of "relevance."

COMMENTER: So I guess this study of a tiny group of privileged MBA's shows that there's no gender gap? And women "decide" to be teachers and nurses but not doctors? That women just don't "want" to earn more? This sort of reactionary nonsense isn't journalism; it's shoddy and selective anti-feminist editorializing.

COMMENTER: This article is a little dumb. It will be abused by those who want to keep women down as a justification for paying women less.

"The point here is not that there is no wage inequality:" Yeah rrright. The point is that by writing articles like this, you've given the opponents of wage equality some ammo, they will go and say: "Look! Even that liberal lady-writer says this 77 percent thing is nonsense!"

COMMENTER: People who throw around that "77 cents to the dollar" statistic are TECHNICALLY incorrect but the author of this article is being deliberately misleading to prove a dumb point. The actual fact is that white women make 91 cents to every dollar made by a white male. Black women, on the other hand, earn 77 cents for every dollar made by a white male. For Hispanic women, I think the number is somewhere around 60 cents for every dollar.

Using those facts to say that the wage gap is closed and there's no more work to be done is either wishful thinking or complete disregard for women of color.
Why should we be “technically accurate?” It will just help The Other Tribe!

Rosin had made a simple point—a very familiar statement is factually false. Churning a wide range of objections, angry liberals faulted Rosin for daring to point this out.

Back in the day, we liberals laughed at the ditto-heads for doing this sort of thing. We preened and pranced about, telling the world about the other tribe's dumbness.

At long last, we have begun to create our own news orgs, where we're pampered and pandered. And wouldn’t you know it? It turns out that we can be fairly dumb too, just like all groups of humans! But these comments suggest something else beyond that:

We humans have a very shaky allegiance to facts. Indeed, we seem to have a very shaky grasp of the very concept.

Once we have a “fact” we like, we humans hate to let it go. Telling the truth will help the others! Why would we want to do that?

For more comments: On Facebook, the comments were pithier. The last two examples:
FULL COMMENT: What a stupid article: Let's parse this into minutia just to wind up in the same spot. Women get paid less. Derp.

FULL COMMENT: It's so disturbing that such willful ignorance is still being published in 2013—by a woman.
Women get paid less—who cares by how much? Who cares about such minutia?

To review these sobering documents, brace yourselves, then click this.


  1. I had to laugh uproariously at this post from Somerby. Here he's doing two things: 1) praising the correction of false claims, and 2) citing comments from readers of blogs, something he often does—indeed sometimes these quoted comments comprise the bulk of his post.

    So we know that Somerby is an inveterate reader of the comments section of blogs. Is it reasonable to assume therefore that he DOESN'T read the comments section of HIS OWN BLOG? No, not at all reasonable. And yet, innumerable times, he has had mistakes of his pointed out in the comments section that he NEVER CORRECTS IN THE BLOG PROPER. And of course it is recognized that only a small percentage of readers peruse the comments section of a blog, so few would even be aware that someone has claimed Somerby made a mistake, and in any case, even if EVERYONE read the comments section and was thus aware of the claimed mistake, that would fall far short of Somerby himself acknowledging the error.

    Such hypocrisy either sickens or amuses, depending on your nature. I just laugh.

    1. I always smile when I read a comment by someone who claims he "just laughs" after delivering an ALL CAPS rant that seems to strain to find a point to get worked up about.

    2. Udolpho, my Jewish mother (yup, I really had one) occasionally used this Yiddish word that I'll try to spell phonetically--"yashtcherkis"--that she said meant "laughing with tears in your eyes". So maybe that was the nature of my laughter. Though not literally, of course, brimming with tears, I do feel genuinely disappointed to see this endless procession of posturing phonies in the world. Somerby is just another, no worse I guess than the rest.

      As for having to strain to find a point to get worked up about--there, you're way off the mark.

      Somerby's constant theme is bogus narratives and all the attendant lies circulating in the media--and oh how he applauds when the truth somehow shimmies its way to the surface from beneath 10 feet of media gook! So when Somerby, like every human being, is guilty of an error of fact or logic, he should be the first to acknowledge it, considering his mania for such correction when it comes to everyone else. The fact that he doesn't admit error either in the comments section or the blog proper is pretty pathetic.

    3. I've never seen error of any material significance in Bob's work and almost every time "error" is alleged in the comments it is a difference of opinion, not an error of fact or logic.

    4. Anon 1213,

      TDH gets shredded in the comments, but has never acknowledged a basic factual error even when it is pointed out in comments with many supporting links.

      You can waste your time trying to hide behind "material" as a weasel word, but you will just look as foolish as the TDH sock-puppets on that TDH post.

    5. Historically, "TDH sock-puppet" == anyone who agrees with Somerby, and not Trollmes

  2. It's by no means clear that the "true" difference of 5% to 10% represents discrimination. The way these studies are done is that jobs are adjusted as far as possible to equalize men and women. However, it's impossible for a study to correct for every conceivable factor. Two factors that may not be reflected in the studies would be

    -- Many women have fewer years of experience, because they took time out to raise children.
    -- Women, on average, have more sick days than men.

    Also, it's illegal for employers to discriminate based on sex.

    For these reasons, I would not necessarily conclude that women are discriminated against in the workplace.

    1. It is illegal to drive above the speed limit. Does that mean no one does it?

    2. Actually, David, I know that virtually all of the studies showing the gap to be in the five to ten percent range DO take into account both factors you mention, along with a slew of others.

    3. Can you sue another driver for a year's salary if you catch them speeding past you?

  3. Broadly, men's sexism has always had and continues to have a considerable negative impact on women. Personally it is common for me to witness women sexualize themselves to gain advantages in the workplace. Cheap reaction to sexism, but the notion that merit plays much of a role in society is silly. My kid was primarily raised by me until a year ago when I took a 12 hours per shift night-time job. This is very painful for me.

    1. Please don't project your bad experiences with men onto the rest of us. Perhaps it is women's sexism that has driven us into an idiocracy with the modern ideal that a male partner must be as physically attractive as possible and she can "fix the rest".

  4. Here is what Rachel Maddow actually said:

    "In 19 of the 20 jobs that are the most common occupations for men in this country, women lag behind what men get paid for doing that same work.

    It’s also true in the most common jobs that women have in this country. If you are a secretary, men get paid more. If you’re a teacher, men get paid more. If you’re nurse, men get paid more. If you’re a cashier, men get paid more.

    If you’re a receptionist, a financial manager, if you wait tables, men get paid more. Again, in 19 of the 20 jobs that are the most common occupations for women in this country, women lag behind what men get paid for the same work.

    Overall, when you aggregate everybody working, women get paid 77 cents for every dollar that men get paid. For the same work, dudes get paid more."

    She said you get this fresult "overall" when you aggregate the various occupations, 19 out of 20 of which see a pay gap. In other words, she said, not all occupations show a pay gap, and you wouldn't need to "aggregate" if each of them was 77%, so, ipso facto, Maddow did not say women make 77% "for the same work," she said, perfectly accurately, that overall they make 77%, and for the same work almost all the way across the board they get paid less. To say she said they "get 77% for the same work" is a straw-man, and it is a false statement. Both TDH and Rosin employ the same straw-man to shoot down.

    TDH is great at dis-aggregation. Apparently he has a problem understanding aggregation.

    1. This literally makes no sense. There's no reason to point to the 77 cent figure if you don't mean to give the impression that women make 77 cents on the dollar for the same work. If the disaggregated data gives you a realistic picture, and aggregating the data gives you a misleading picture, why would you cite the aggregated data to make your case?

      You wouldn't, pretty obviously.

    2. Oh, and one more thing. You seem to forget that a big part of the problem Bob had with Maddow was Maddow's subsequent performance, where she stupidly feigned shock as to how anyone would take issue with her point.

      The reason her point was disputed is perfectly obvious: it's a misleading figure to cite. If the 77 cent figure doesn't give an accurate picture of the disparity between pay for men and women in an apples-to-apples comparison, it's just not a useful figure to cite. It's intentionally misleading.

    3. Your comment assumes equal access to the same work. At least some of the various "controls" that mostly conservative writers propose implicitly do the same thing. The 77% figure takes the overall situation as it is. The Census Bureau saw fit to use it as an overall figure, and people commenting on the situation are perfectly entitled to use it. If you think it makes no sense, take it up with the Census Bureau. Maddow made it crystal clear that it was an overall figure. Indeed, only an idiot would assume it meant 77% in every line of work even if she hadn't made it crystal clear that she did not mean that.

      There is a long history of discrimination not only in pay within lines of work, but also dividing the workforce in to women's work and men's work. Why do you think elementary school teachers are overwhelmingly female, while that is not the case in high school and is still much less so in college teaching? There is nothing misleading about using to make that point in media comments the percentage the Census Bureau used as an overall indicator of the same point. But I guess if you think it's misleading, possibly since it's Maddow who said it -- a form of reflexive contrarianism not unlike Republicans being against whatever Obama is for -- there will be no convincing you.

    4. "There is nothing misleading" about Maddow's and others' use of the 77% figure?


      Maddow tried hard to pretend. She succeeded in pretending.

      The guy who points out the pretending is your boogieman.

      That's why you're regarded as a bit of a douchebag.

  5. OMB (The Howler Howls Again)

    Sorry it took me a day and a half to catch this post, but since BOB was covering a four day old post when he he wrote it, I guess I'm not too tardy.

    BOB has a lot of gall to headline this "Hanna Rosin corrects an inaccurate claim!" then use it to pat hiself on the back for his own coverage of an inaccurate claim
    he made in two posts over a year ago which he repeats here in this Poo Poo Platter of a post.

    Bob writes: “Women are paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.” Rosin was saying that this familiar statement is false.

    We fact-checked that claim in May 2012. Here’s why:

    Rachel Maddow had made the familiar claim on Meet the Press."

    Maddow never said "Women are paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men."

    Maddow did say: "Women in this country still make 77 cents on the dollar for what men make."

    So why did Bob choose to add the highlighted language to Maddow's comments here and imply she said them back in May of 2012. Because they turn what she accurately said in May, 2012, into something inaccurate.

    Now, if you Bobfans want to go into the "suggestion" of what she "might have meant", or debate other studies and what have you, then I have an internet I took the initiative to create to sell you. Otherwise admit your boy BOB simply "invented" those words and put them in Rachel's mouth. And as often as he tells us she is an overpaid millionaire, she certainly does not need his free help.

    Emperor B.