Monday, July 10, 2000

Daily Grind


Study: Pay equal for the sexes

By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For decades, labor unions and others have lamented the pay disparity between men and women in the work force.

        Women are routinely paid less for the same work, according to the conventional wisdom of unions, about 75 cents for every dollar earned by a man. The trend soon picked up two names — “comparable worth” and “gender pay equity” — and that signaled that a full-flung political movement was under way.

        But a new study by an economist and a lawyer at the Employment Policy Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., and supported by contributions from 100 companies, blows a hole in more than 30 years of workplace pay assumptions. In A Closer Look at Comparable Worth, economist Anita U. Hattiangadi and lawyer Amy M. Habib find that on average, women and men earn about the same salary.

        Established in 1983, the foundation bills itself as a nonpartisan research group charged with developing employment policies.

No pay discrimination
        Drawing from a bibliography listing 26 studies from a diverse collection of groups — ranging from the White House Counsel of Economic Advisors in June 1998 to Industrial and Labor Relations Review — researchers found that instead of a 25 percent pay disparity, most, if not all, of the so-called gender pay gap is due to factors unrelated to discrimination. The biggest impact is that women are not in the workplace as long as male counterparts.

        In fact, the study found we are living in a time of virtual pay parity — particularly for childless men and women who belong to the Y-generation, that is, full-time workers 21 to 35 years old who live alone. There is no difference in pay between men and women in that age group who live in childless households.

        While men in dual-income households still usually earn more than their female partners, that pendulum, too, is swinging. In almost one-of-four dual-earner families, the wife makes more than the husband.

        On average, women and men earn the same salaries up until the point that marriage and family are introduced into the equation: Women leave the job force to raise children; and until those children are school-aged, they generally stay out of the work force.

Women work less
        As a result, over the average career, women spend an average of 14.7 potential years away from work, while men spend 1.6 years off the job. That means women miss cost-of-living raises.

        Because average pay also tends to increase as age and work experience increases, another advantage goes to male workers, who generally have been in the workplace longer, the foundation determined.

        Women also work about 200 fewer hours each year, reflecting their family responsibilities; and as a result, they earn less money than men.

        Another factor is that men tend to have higher average levels of education. Research also shows that women and men are paid the same for equal jobs. Women aged 35 to 44 with psychology degrees working as social scientists earn 101 percent as much as male colleagues.

        Women in the same age group with engineering degrees and working as engineers earn 95 percent as much as their male counterparts.

        The conclusion? Comparable worth may be a notion looking for a worry.

        John Eckberg can be reached at jeckberg@enquirer.com or 768-8386.