How much less do women get paid for the same or equal work?


Also, should liberals be honest: A few weeks ago, we mentioned Katie McDonough’s somewhat peculiar piece about the gender wage gap. To read that piece, click here.

It seemed to us that McDonough had cherry-picked a single study (from 2003) to keep a favorite claim alive—the claim that women “still earn around 80 percent of men’s wages” for doing the same or equal work.

We said we’d return to the topic. A news report in today’s New York Times provides the perfect chance.

It also displays a certain type of lazy work one often finds in the Times.

How large is the gender wage gap, defined in whatever way? And should liberals feel an obligation to be truthful about this topic?

This is one of the most muddled topics in our current discourse. Here’s the way Shear and Lowrey start today’s report:
SHEAR AND LOWREY (4/8/14): President Obama on Tuesday will call attention to what he has said is an “embarrassment” in America: the fact that women make, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar that a man earns.

But critics of the administration are eager to turn the tables and note that Mr. Obama’s White House fares only slightly better. A study released in January showed that female White House staff members make on average 88 cents for every dollar a male staff member earns.
Oops. Obama keeps citing the preferred statistic—“the fact that women make, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar that a man earns.”

That statistic is basically true, though it may be misleading. As we noted a few weeks back, it looks like this statistic is going to be a political rallying cry this year, even though many people may not understand it.

But uh-oh! According to Shear and Lowrey, a study shows that women who work in the White House make only 88 cents for every dollar a man earns there. On its face, that looks embarrassing, given Obama's crusade!

Should that statistic be embarrassing? Not necessarily, no.

A bit later in their report, Shear and Lowrey try to puzzle this out. Rather, they present a classic journalistic “he said/he said” concerning these statistics.

Spokesmen from the two major parties are given their chance to speak. Shear and Lowrey make no attempt to sort this out themselves:
SHEAR AND LOWREY: Jay Carney, the president’s press secretary, said the statistics for White House staff members reflect the fact that women fill more lower-level positions than men. But he said that women and men in the same positions at the White House are paid the same, and that many of the women hold senior positions.


He said that the 88-cent statistic was misleading because it aggregates the salaries of White House staff members at all levels, including the lowest levels, where women outnumber men.

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner, said the 77-cent statistic that Mr. Obama has often cited was misleading for the same reason, because it aggregates salaries for the American workforce. “The wage gap is real, but the White House does itself a disservice—and embarrasses itself in the process—by grasping for misleading statistics that don’t tell the whole story,” Mr. Buck said.
Carney says the new study’s statistic is misleading. In turn, Buck says Obama’s statistic is misleading.

As far as we know, both are right. Here’s why:

That iconic figure –77 cents on the dollar—is not a measure of pay to women for doing “the same or equal work.” It’s a measure of total annual income for men and women who are employed full-time.

When adjustments are made for hours worked, seniority and other factors, the wage gap turns out to be less than that “for the same or equal work.” We’re fairly sure that everyone agrees on that basic fact.

So how big is the gender wage gap for doing “the same or equal work?” And should liberals feel the need to be truthful about such a basic statistic?

As a way of considering both questions, we recommend a presentation by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), which pretty much everyone regards as a “liberal” group.

On March 10, the AAUW created a detailed mini-site about the gender wage gap. Title included, this is the way it starts:
The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap (2014)

March 10, 2014: You’ve probably heard that men are paid more than women are paid over their lifetimes. But what does that mean? Are women paid less because they choose lower-paying jobs? Is it because more women work part time than men do? Or is it because women tend to be the primary caregivers for their children?

AAUW’s The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap succinctly addresses these issues by going beyond the widely reported 77 percent statistic. The report explains the pay gap in the United States; how it affects women of all ages, races, and education levels; and what you can do to close it.
That synopsis promises to “go beyond the widely reported 77 percent statistic.” On the other hand, the statistic is instantly on display, getting drummed into everyone’s head all over again.

At what point does the AAUW “go beyond” that statistic? In truth, you have to go very deep into this report before you start to gain a perspective on what that statistic actually means.

It looks to us like the AAUW is trying to bury its clarification. It looks to us like the AAUW may be trying to have it all ways.

To what extent does the AAUW help us “go beyond the widely reported 77 percent statistic?” On the report’s front page, you see a list of eight bullet points, each of which is quite gloomy. The first of these bullet points reinforces that common statistic again:
The pay gap hasn’t budged in a decade.
In 2012, as in 2002, among full-time, year-round workers, women were paid 77 percent of what men were paid.
These eight bullet-points are followed by three bullet-pointed recommendations. Nowhere is there any attempt to explain why we need to “go beyond the widely reported 77 percent statistic.”

Indeed, a person has to work pretty hard to find any discussion or clarification of that famous statistic. You have to click ahead to a different page to reach the following advisory, which appears third in a list of five more bullet points:
AAUW: When you account for all factors known to affect pay, women are still paid almost 7 percent less than men just one year after college—and the gap only grows from there.
We’re not sure what the second part of that sentence means. But everyone seems to agree that the actual gender wage gap is something like 7 cents on the dollar “when you account for all factors known to affect pay”—if we’re talking about “the same or equal work.”

Or at least, that’s our basic impression. Things get harder from here:

To our eye, this AAUW site tried fairly hard to avoid reporting the size of the gap “for the same or equal work.” That same thing happened in 2012, when Rachel Maddow mistakenly said, on Meet the Press, that women are paid 77 cents on the dollar “for doing the same work.”

The next evening, Maddow said she had no idea why her statement had been challenged. She then presented an expert, who emitted this verbal jumble:
MADDOW (4/30/12): I know that you at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, you have done some of the most important and most highly publicized work on this issue. Is there any way that the idea of a gender- based disparity is something that depends on how you look at it? Is this something other than a blunt truth about the American economy?

HARTMANN: Well, I mean, you obviously have by far the better part of the argument. You’ve got the Census Bureau and, I might mention, the Bureau of Labor Statistics agreeing with you. Oh, also, I could mention, the U.S. General Accountability Office.

I think what the issue is for the Republicans is that they believe that that’s not—no matter how big the wage gap is, almost none of it is due to discrimination. And of course, these numbers from BLS and Census Bureau are not really talking about discrimination. But the GAO study that I just mentioned did. They said that even when you put everything you can possibly think of in the regression equations, the statistical analyses to try to make that gap go away, you can’t explain at least 20 percent of it.

Now, most other studies place the part you can’t explain as a quarter to a half. So, a large part of the gap probably is due to discrimination. But that seems to be what the debate is.
We’ll admit that we no longer understand what that expert was saying. Did she mean that “you can’t explain” twenty percent of the 23-cent wage gap? Or did she mean that “you can’t explain” 20 cents on the dollar?

We’ve always assumed she meant the former—that the unexplained wage gap is something like six cents on the dollar (twenty percent of 23 cents). We assumed that was what she meant because that seems to jibe with what most experts seem to say, and because the second part of her statement doesn’t make sense the other way.

(“Most other studies place the part you can’t explain as a quarter to a half.” Has anyone ever said that women get paid half as much for doing the same work?)

We thought this expert had said, in a jumbled way, that you can’t explain something like 20 percent of the gap—something like six cents on the dollar.

We’re now unsure what she meant. (The professors fail us again!) This returns us to our original questions: Once you make the basic adjustments, how large is the gender wage gap for “the same or equal work?”

We’d love to see someone answer that question in a forum which produces some basic agreement about the most basic facts.

As we close, let’s consider the work done in today’s New York Times. Shouldn’t the Times explain the basic facts in a way we can all understand?

The Times assigned two reporters to today’s news report. But wouldn’t you know it? In their 800 words, they made no attempt to provide their own assessment or overview concerning that widely-cited statistic—77 cents on the dollar.

In perfect “he said/he said” fashion, they quoted Carney and Buck. They also quoted Obama, and they quoted the new report.

The even quoted Heidi Hartmann, the expert Maddow “interviewed” in 2012. But they never provided their own overview of this statistical morass:

How much less are women paid “for doing the same or equal work?” Shear and Lowrey made no attempt to tell their readers. They simply quoted a bunch of people, then ran for the corner bar.

Meanwhile, over at Salon, Joan Walsh is playing her usual role. She’s creating a state of total confusion concerning this basic question.

Needless to say, she’s calling the other party names as she does this.

Pitifully, Walsh cites the study by the AAUW. But she skips the part where the AAUW “addresses these issues by going beyond the widely reported 77 percent statistic.”

She never explains that the famous statistic isn’t meant as a measure of pay for “the same or equal work.” That’s the point the GOP is making in the statements she calls lies.

We assume Walsh is creating this confusion on purpose. We assume she isn’t that dumb.


Do you think liberals like Walsh should be honest concerning such basic questions? If you do, Walsh herself may not be the person to read.


  1. Much needed examination since what the gender wage gap amounts to is presented so confusingly by the press.

  2. That women are not paid the same as men for the same or equal work is not the extent of the complaint. There is also the fact that women are habitually denied promotion, not allowed to reach the higher levels. On that basis the 77% may actually be a more representative number for the extent of prejudice. Of course those talking about it should be precise about what the number is.

    1. Yes, I found myself wondering why Obama is let off the hook because his gap is explained by the fact that more women occupy the lower paying jobs. Why are people not asking why women are routinely in lower paying positions, especially when they tend to be more educated?

      The salary gap and the lower number of women on Obama's campaign staff (and in higher positions) were part of the reason I did not vote for Obama over Clinton. This matters to me and to many women.

      I don't care whether the gap is 77% or 7%, there shouldn't be one.

  3. First of all, anybody who got a "C" in Statistics 101 knows that you really can't compare a HUGE set -- all U.S. workers -- to a tiny subset -- White House staff.

    But let's set that aside and pretend that you can.

    It seems that the Obama White House has made "equal pay for equal work" a policy.

    By doing just that, they have managed to cut the aggregate wage gap between male and female employees in half.

    Now yes, it seems that there are other factors that make up the wage gap. But if "equal pay for equal work" cuts that gap in half, don't you think that might be a policy worth pursuing?

    1. Why does something like this come in his 6th year in office? Why was it not the unofficial policy on his staff from the beginning?

    2. Check out the first piece of legisltion Obama signed. I don't think it was anything other than official policy from day one.

  4. President Obama complaining about the wage gap is like the chief of the zombies complaining about brains being eaten. Under federal law, it's illegal to discriminate in the workplace based on sex. The President of the United States is responsible for enforcing this law. If there's widespread discrimination against women, then Obama has been failing to do his job properly.

  5. "Women make up just 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, but 48.6 percent of the labor force overall, according to Catalyst, an organization dedicated to the advancement of women in business."

    Jill Berman at Huffington Post reporting on the WSJ article on the wage gap.

    1. That statistic tells us absolutely nothing about discrimination.

    2. Except that it exists.

  6. What difference does it make if the "news" on this issue is false? The important thing is to promote victimhood wherever one finds it or can invent it.

  7. OMB (Let's Look at it Like BOB's Black Children)

    Women who work full time make 77% of what men who work full time make.

    BOB has maintained for some time this is not a measure of discrimination. He has vociferously attacked people who use the statistic without adding sufficient caveats to end up saying what Heidi
    Hartmann says, which he then dismisses as "verbal jumble and then proudly repeats a frequent refrain "The professors fail us again!"

    We sympathize with poor BOB when he admits "we no longer understand what that expert was saying."

    Let's put it in terms BOB has never shied away from claiming to understand, in numbers we hope even his readers can understand:

    NAEP scores on 8th Grade Math

    The average score of white students in 2013..........294
    The average score of black students in 2013..........263

    This is not a measure of discrimination. How much of the gap represents equal scores for equal work.


    1. KZ,

      If I understand you right, you are sarcastically implying that the reason black students do worse than white students is because of discrimination. How about the fact that blacks are much more likely to grow up in fatherless homes? Or that, as Bob noticed a week or two ago, black mothers don't interact with their kids as much as white mothers which harms their intellectual development?

      Are black completely not at fault? Do they bear no responsibility for their own outcomes?

      Asians make more money than white people and are the most likely to be denied access to the college of their choice due to affirmative action. Does our society discriminate in their favor? Or are they doing something right?

      Jews are the most well-off of all whites. Are they being disproportionately helped by a largely Christian nation or do you believe in a certain, once-popular conspiracy theory?

      If I missed your point, please excuse me. But I've seen and heard others go on in a vein where white people are responsible for the behavior of black people and that black people are just poor helpless victims of white racism pretty much not matter what. For a certain kind of liberal, blaming white people for being racist is the go-to, knee-jerk response.

      Frankly, I think we have a broken paradigm here and that it's not always whites or even white conservatives who insist on clinging to the old ways.

    2. One of the problems around here is that BOB has fostered a culture of writing posts and comments based on an "understanding of" and assertion of "the implication of" what somebody else meant.

      I said the statistic is not a measure of discrimination. I then asked what part of the gap represents equal scores for equal work.

      If you want to answer the question, which I mistakenly posted without a question mark, feel free to give it a shot.
      But you do not understand correctly and I did not imply
      what you then responded to.


  8. A few years back Warren Farrell wrote a book called "Why Men Earn More." Here are a few of the reasons why men earn more than women:

    They work more hours.
    They are willing to make longer commutes.
    They take less existentially satisfying but more lucrative jobs.
    They are willing to work in undesirable locations.
    They take dirtier and more dangerous jobs.
    They are more work centered.
    They are more ambitious and are more likely to put themselves forward for promotion.

    All of these tendencies predictably result in greater financial success.

    In short men earn more than women because they are doing more to get it.

    If the claims put forth by feminists were true there would be a mountain of in-your-face evidence to substantiate it.

    The reason there is so much confusion is because a clear case for the oppression of women in regards to pay simply does not exist in anything like the degree feminists claim.

    Basically, we are wasting our time.

    1. It sounds like you think one's earnings are based on how hard one works. NOTHING in this economy could make me believe such nonsense.

    2. No job held by men is more dangerous than prostitution, dirtier than nursing or cleaning, less existentially satisfying than clerical work, a longer commute than the two or three buses taken by poor women without cars, and no one works harder than a working mom (who has both a paid and unpaid job). This is a self-serving excuse for excluding women from higher paying occupations. When women try to enter them they are physically intimidated. See films like North Country for an example. This is well and extensively documented by legs like the EEOC. Women can and do work in every job held by men. In WWII ahem men's jobs were open to women they demonstrated that. It is unfair competition that keeps women in the lowest paid jobs. It disadvantages both women and their kids and it is wrong.

    3. Sorry for the odd autocorrect changes.

    4. Well said 12:16.


    5. Anonymous at 12:16.

      No job is more dangerous than being a prostitute? How about being a roofer? Or a policeman? In fact, 93% of our work-place deaths are male.

      If you think no job is dirtier than being a nurse you ought to try being a garbage man.

      Citing an anecdotal example (And only women take multiple buses? Really?) does not alter the fact that men on average commute longer.

      Really, this is just a lot of gas.

      You are clinging to an outdated paradigm. And both your response and the response of KZ shows how intellectually vacuous the left has become.

    6. What strikes me is how the "wage gap" counter-argument from the right-wing, which Somerby and his fan Hieronymous, dutifully regurgitate closely parallels the argument against global warming and climate change.

      "Sure, the planet is warming and human activity is dumping tons upon tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. But what about sunspots?"

      Thus both global warming and the wage gap become some naturally occurring phenomenon with no real man-made causes about which we can -- and should -- do nothing, lest we harm the "economy."

    7. What strikes me, Anonymous at 5:10 AM is how you are completely ignoring inconvenient facts in order to slime me by comparing me to a global warming denialist.

      Just because global warming is real does not mean that the wage gap is the result of patriarchal oppression.

      I never said anything about whether the wage gap harms or doesn't harm the economy. That is something you made up.

      For the record, I agree with Robert Reich that the minimum wage ought to be raised to $15 an hour.

      You and other know-nothing liberals like you are the ones who are deniers. The reason you have to stoop to ad hominems is because you cannot win on facts.

      Please answer the following question: If one can get the same quality of work out of a woman than one can get out of a man while paying her 23% less, why aren't women being hired at a drastically higher rate?

      Oh, but that would mean dealing with facts. Much better to slime people by comparing them to global warming denialist.


    8. One more thing.One of the reasons liberals have had so much trouble gaining traction on global warming is because they seem to prefer abusing people with identity politic BS, rather than obsessing over the stuff that really matters.

    9. Right, Heronymous. Blame women for the fact they make less than men. They should simply shut up and accept it. After all, it's their fault.

    10. "For the record, I agree with Robert Reich that the minimum wage ought to be raised to $15 an hour."

      Huh? Did you just throw this in to prove how "liberal" you are?

      Do you feel forced to prove your bonafides after making a fool out of yourself for claiming men get paid more because they are willing to take those high-paying garbage man gigs that women refuse to take?

    11. Briefer Braintree:

      "short men earn more than women because they are doing more to get it."

      "Bob noticed a week or two ago, black mothers don't interact with their kids as much as white mothers"


      "Just because global warming is real does not mean that the wage gap is the result of patriarchal oppression."

    12. I am still wrapping my brain around the concept that men get paid more because there are fewer women roofers and garbage collectors.

    13. I am very much enjoying your pseudo-enlightened temper tantrums. And I don't think I'm the person making a fool of himself.

      Garbage women make exactly the same pay as male garbage men. But over 90% of garbage men are men. Why? Because women don't want the job.

      If women want to make as much as men, they're going to have to make the same sacrifices that men do to earn it.

      Actions have consequences.

      Keep up with the desperate incoherencies.

    14. "Garbage women make exactly the same pay as male garbage men."

      Link please.

    15. Dear Anonymous at 12:38 PM

      You are the one making the claim that they're pay is different. It is up to you to prove that they don't make the same. Paying women less than men for doing the same job is against the law and has been for decades. If what you say is true there should be a plethora of court cases of corporations and municipal governments being charged with discrimination because women are getting paid less per hour than men plus, of course, law suits. Where, praytell, are they? Where are the hundreds the feminist blog post showing that women are paid less per hour for the exact same job in the exact same company that should be there if your claims were true?

      They're not there because feminist claims are bullshit.

      There is a book that explains all of this. It's called "Why Men Earn More."

      There's also a youtube presentation.

      A lot of people believe things simply because they keep hearing them repeated. There's a word for that kind of thing. It's called propaganda.

      And, remember, you have to come up with tons of examples to prove that women get lower pay for THE EXACT SAME WORK. You and other feminists are the ones claiming that this is how our society is defined. And yet there is a screamingly conspicuous lack of proof.

      Hey, let's check out politifact:

      "The 77-cent figure compares all male and female workers, regardless of their occupation. Whether due to a historical legacy of discrimination or because of personal choice, women and men are disproportionately represented in certain jobs. For instance, women dominate the ranks of receptionists, nurses, and elementary and middle-school teachers, among other fields. Men are disproportionately truck drivers, managers and computer software engineers."

      Not that any of this is going to make a difference to you. You are a classic pseudo-enlightened twit. Facts don't matter. Ideology matters.

      You are an unintentional Republican fifth columnist.

    16. You are confused. I have NEVER made that claim.
      OTOH, YOU made the claim that garbage men make the exact same pay as garbage women. (It's right there in your post at 11:52 AM, first sentence in your second paragraph).

      When I asked for the proof of your statement, you changed the subject to make it look like I made a claim (with no proof).

      Were you misled? Did you mistype, or were you just plain old trying to pass off 100% bullshit when you wrote the claim?

      Facts don't matter to ME? Actually, I was asking for you to back-up the "fact" you made-up out of whole cloth. You have a lot of nerve, HB.

    17. While you're at it, can you back-up this claim about me:
      " You are a classic pseudo-enlightened twit. Facts don't matter."
      Or do I have to come up with tons of real life examples on why facts have and still do matter to me just to show you are writing bullshit?

    18. "If what you say is true there should be a plethora of court cases of corporations and municipal governments being charged with discrimination because women are getting paid less per hour than men plus, of course, law suits. Where, praytell, are they?"

      Yes. Let's all walk into our HR Departments demanding to see the salaries of everyone who works with us.


    19. Anonymous at 2:43 & 2:47

      You claim women are getting paid less for the same job? Fine. Show me.

      Show me where women garbage collectors get paid less than men. You won't find it. Why? BECAUSE IT'S AGAINST THE LAW!

      You have done absolutely nothing to prove your case that women get paid less for the same job. I OTOH have provided proof that that claim is a lie. I gave you three cites.

      I used merely garbage person as an example. But it wouldn't be true just for garbage people. It would be true for virtually every job that both men and women do.

      You are engaged in is idiotic nit picking.

      Women get paid less for doing the same job as men? Fine.

      Here's some more:

      That's four more links debunking the wage gap myth.


      Hey, here's an idea! Attack me! That way no one will ever notice that you're coming up completely empty and are doing absolutely nothing to show that the wage gap exists!

      Put up or shut up.

    20. HB. How many times are you going to ask me to prove something I never stated?

      OK. So you have asserted 4 facts.
      1) garbage women make the same exact pay as garbage men.
      That could be true, but who knows. There is no evidence that I have seen to purport if it is true or not. (I know this, because i have asked you for it twice).

      2) In general, women get paid the same amount as men for doing the same job.
      This one, you backed-up. Good job!

      3) Employees get paid for how hard they work. (This one was up-post).
      WAY too foolish for ANYONE to believe.

      4) Due to your 2nd assertion, there is very little (if any) discrimination against women in the job marketplace.

      Not even close. Checkout this response on Somerby's latest post, which spells it out perfectly:
      Anonymous April 9, 2014 at 3:40 PM

    21. Thanks for the links, Hieronymous.
      Those links show a disparity in what women are paid in comparison to what men are paid. They say, taking into account choices men and women make about employment, there is still a disparity of about 7 cents on the dollar.
      Why do you keep stating their is no disparity when the links you provide show there is?


  9. I wonder why Somerby feels it is necessary to misrepresent what Rachel Maddow said and what happened on both Meet the Press and her subsequent discussion if it on her own program regarding the pay gap. His performance on this issue is really on a par with his recent depiction of Maddow on Bridgegate.

  10. "For years, Rush and Sean churned disinformation in a way their tribe found pleasing. "

    The past tense is a Freudian slip. This blogger is an utter loser who has drifted into the default position of the loser angry white male - just what kind of Kabuki theater is he playing with this "we liberals" schtick?

    1. The past tense is not a Freudian slip, which is a concept of dubious intellectual validity to begin with. To use the past tense in this case is to refer to the historical record and does not inherently rule out that the described behavior is continuing. All of us know that the behavior is continuing.

      However describing Bob as a "loser angry white male" is in-your-face racism and sexism.

      Congratulations. You are a bigot. Apparently, a very stupid one.

  11. The amount of pay is not really a good measurement of how much you work even before looking at sexism. How much do Mexican maids get paid compared to a PR firm for Exxon Mobil?

  12. Hieronymous

    Who do you think these people are

    "Americans who don’t know where Ukraine is are more likely to support military intervention – poll"

    women? blacks? Asians?

    The culture of violence is now ready to explode as living standards get dragged down for those without education. Blogger is totally wasting time railing against liberals whose only crime is that they can't deal with AWMs whereas Republicans pander to their ignorant rage.

    1. I have no idea what could possibly be the point of your question as I have no idea why women, blacks, Asians or anybody else would be any more less or more likely to know where the Ukraine is.

      What Bob is pointing out is the damage liberals are doing with their stupid obsessions while treating outsiders, very much including white men like assholes. The only thing we white guys hear from liberals is about what a bunch of jerks we're supposed to be and not only that BUT THAT WE'RE BIGOTS! Republicans are exploiting an advantage that liberals have generously created.

      If I wasn't as well educated as I am I would most certainly be a Republican. Republicans are lying when they say that they're my friends but at least they're saying that they're my friends. Liberals are constantly telling me that they're my enemies.

      Sure but let's attack the white guys some more. That'll help.

    2. HB,
      You say you are not a Republican (i.e. conservative). But then you go right to page one of the conservative playbook and claim you (and white men in general) are the victim(s).

      You may not be a modern conservative, but you sure play one on the internet.