Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

The “77 cents on the dollar” fraud

with 13 comments

One of the most common propaganda tricks from feminists is the claim that women only earn x cents/öre/pence/whatnot for every dollar/krona/pound/whatnot a man earns—in a US context, 77 cents is the most common number. (See also my article on the infamous Anna Ardin for a related example.) This highly misleading claim is either given alone, without context, or made into a direct lie by adding claims about equal pay for equal work. The hitch is that the measurement used compares apples and oranges—it shows unequal pay for unequal work: Women already have equal pay for equal work. (In many advanced countries, including Sweden, the US, and Germany. Indeed, I have heard some claim that women earn more than men in Sweden.)

If we were to alter things so that women, by this twisted measurement, earned a dollar on the dollar, then men would be severely discriminated against. The claim for equal pay amounts to “All employees are equal, but some are more equal than others.” and wanting to eat the cake and keep it too.

The 77 cents arise from a misleading comparison, ignoring factors like hours worked per week, educational level, area of work (including factors such as physical dangers and qualifications needed), and time with the company.

For two very good articles on the subject, see Do Women and Men Earn Equal Pay in 2007?e and 77 cents on the dollar? The truth about the gender wage gape.

A particular interesting partial explanation is simply prioritisations and risk-taking when choosing jobs and negotiating salaries: Men have a higher unemployment than women (incidentally, something which does not bring the feminists to the barricades…) and it is quite possible that men are simply more prone to pick unemployment over a low-paid job, to go through temporary unemployment while looking for the right position with the right company for the right pay, or to make a negotiating gambit for a higher pay (with the risk of not getting the position). Any individual woman could chose to take the same risk for the same chance at the same gain, and those who do not have to live with their choice—just like the men who make the gamble and lose…

For that matter, making a comparison of pay without factoring in involuntary unemployment is inherently misleading.

“But discrimination is real! I have seen it myself!”

That may be. However, individual cases mean comparatively little for numbers like these and, while individual cases need correction, they are not a support for claims of a systematic problem of this alleged size. Further, many cases that are called discrimination are, in fact, not: Different people, be they men or women, earn differently based on a number of factors, including education, experience, dedication to the employer, self-presentation skills, etc., and any one individual woman earning less than any one individual man (or vice versa) is not an indication of discrimination—no matter what propagandists may want us believe. Further yet, unfair pay is nowhere near being the reserve of women, and it is quite possible that even an objectively unfair pay to a woman is not discrimination: A man in the same position in the same company, likely the one in the cubicle next to hers, stands a high risk of being equally unfairly paid.

For a good example of how not to do it, see e.g. the blog entry which prompted this article to be writtene. (If visiting it, also note the flawed reasoning and ad hominem take by the blog author in the comments, and beware that she kept my first two comments unpublished—including my pointing out that the “women are not worthless” slogan is a straw-man attack: The implicit claim that even a sizable part of the population would consider women worthless is grossly incorrect.)


Addendum:

I note that she has subsequently deleted all comments and also “closed” the comments. Unethical and cowardly, if you ask me.


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Written by michaeleriksson

September 24, 2010 at 12:54 pm

13 Responses

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  1. My favorite argument against this (and perhaps it’s in one of the linked articles?) is, if this were true why doesn’t organizations choose to hire women over men and pay them 90 cents on the dollar? They would save 10% on labor costs for every man they replace with a woman? Discrimination isn’t a factor if they offer men the same lower wage. They can choose to go elsewhere. And if they don’t, they’ve still saved 10% on the men too. It would give them an edge on their competition.

    WTP

    September 30, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    • One of my favourites too. Thank you for pointing it out. The downside is that there is an easy excuse: Men simply think so little of women that they do not realize that they would make this gain. This excuse is hilariously implausible to the rational thinker, but is just a variation of what many feminists think in the first place.

      A variation is harder to counter: Why do not one of the highly competent, but underestimated, women form her own company, hire exclusively women at 90 cents on the dollar, and out-compete the “male” companies? Here a similar excuse can be used (possibly, relating to the ability to get loans or build contacts); however, the number of even feminists who will accept that excuse is considerably smaller. (In particular, in the light of the successful women who have received loans and built contacts, yet have not adopted this policiy.)

      michaeleriksson

      September 30, 2010 at 6:19 pm

  2. […] main point to make here is that the “77 cents on the dollar” claim has been repeatedly disproved, a fact Hulburd could certainly have discovered had he […]

  3. […] claim that women earn 77 cents on the dollar when compared to […]

  4. […] Wirklichkeit haben Männer und Frauen schon gleiches Gehalt für gleiche Arbeit erreicht. (S. z.B. https://michaeleriksson.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/the-%e2%80%9c77-cents-on-the-dollar%e2%80%9d-fraud/) In der Tat zeigen Untersuchungen, dass es mittlerweile einige Felder gibt, wo die Frauen im […]

  5. […] a few steps ahead to look at mid- and long-term consequences, etc.: Examples include believing the 77 cents on the dollar nonsense, banning child-labour (as opposed to merely condemning it) without first ensuring that the […]

  6. […] year. The claim that women would earn less for equal work has been debunked here previously (cf. [1], [2]) and in many external sources; however, political feminists seem to pay no heed (incidentally […]

  7. […] simply invented or severely misinterpreted (cf. e.g. previous discussions on rape statistics or the 77 cents on the dollar fraud) in contexts like these, 85 % is roughly the type of number that tends to occur when police reports […]

  8. “[I]ndividual cases mean comparatively little for numbers like these and, while individual cases need correction, they are not a support for claims of a systematic problem of this alleged size. Further, many cases that are called discrimination are, in fact, not: Different people, be they men or women, earn differently based on a number of factors, including education, experience, dedication to the employer, self-presentation skills, etc., and any one individual woman earning less than any one individual man (or vice versa) is not an indication of discrimination…”

    This is where the snake bites its tail. Feminists would argue that these differences are the cause of the problem, and need to be addressed. Your argument reads like “How dare they complain about the smoke, it’s because there’s a fire!”. Although this individual blog post might only mention the smoke, the underlying fire is still implied. It might not mention the underlying fire explicitly, but it is addressed in a large volume of feminist writing. To just ignore this part of the argument is setting up a strawman and a gross oversimplification of the problem.

    Curiously, you didn’t mention child rearing in the list, where there is far too little support for women in most countries (Scandinavia is largely an exception in this) to outbalance the inequality that arises from these differences, and is the source of a large proportion of the inequality in employment records between both sexes. Furthermore, feminist demands for more jobs for women would also mean that there are more men who can spend time with their kids because they don’t have to rely on the man’s income only, but can work half time. (Given moderate levels of unemployment and a fair minimum wage – but violations of either would have the same effects either way)

    Gender discrimination isn’t blatantly obvious anymore, but often comes unnoticed. Unconscious biases then reflect back onto the members of a society and they become self-fulfilling prophecies, and a large bundle of psychological research investigates this effect. See for example, social dominance theory or system justification theory. Findings support the influence of such contextual differences not only for gender stereotypes but also for ethnicity and social status. For example, job requirements shift depending on whether a man or a woman applies for the job, see for example this study:
    http://www.advance.cornell.edu/documents/casuistry_article.pdf or this paper: http://www.jstor.org/pss/40064251

    Here’s a random fact for you: A few decades ago my university introduced pseudo-anonymous marking of coursework and exams. According to one of the psychology lecturers, before its introduction, male students would get better exam grades than female students, but this quickly reversed after the markers would read the matric numbers instead of the students’ names. But I’m sure it’s the students’ skills. Not.

    Most CVs are still not anonymous, and people are partially assessed on their name, gender, ethnicity, and not their skills. Many employers would like to think they are immune against this, but they are not, and this is why they are not acting on it (in fact there are even some who base their decisions horoscopes and graphology – so much about rationality). But even then – how do we address the problem that women often don’t present their abilities as upfront as men do, that men who take a baby year are socially stigmatised, whereas a woman might not get a promotion because there is a risk that she might become pregnant? These biases are all undeniably present in our society.

    Oh, and the “they can go elsewhere” argument only works if there are sufficient jobs for everyone. But there aren’t, and people often have to take what they’re being given, and here women are subject to a number of biases that men aren’t. Your argument that women should just form their own company, requires a far higher level of organisation between feminists than is currently present and disregards obstacles like acquiring credit etc. I wouldn’t call it a strawman but rather a very weak argument.

    antipattern

    June 23, 2011 at 1:42 am

    • Your initial misconception both of my criticism and of typical feminist complaints is addressed in my reply to your other comment on https://michaeleriksson.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/comment-censorship/

      Child rearing is just a special case: We know that women are more interested in dealing with children than men are. In as far as the parents are still forced to put more of the child-rearing on the mothers than they would prefer, we might have a problem. However, there are no obvious signs for this (at least on a large scale) and some plausible arguments would have to be presented.

      Discrimination may very well exist on an individual basis; however, there is no proof (that I am aware of) for it being a systematic problem were wages are concerned. Indeed, the numbers leave no room for a negative wage discrimination of women. When we look at other related areas, there are indications that the main line of discrimination today is directed against the men, e.g. in that companies prefer to hire or promote women over men with equal or better qualifications for the specific purpose of being able to claim that they have 50 % women in this or that position. Swedish schools have the interesting problem that girls get better grades than boys from their (predominantly) female teachers, but boys outscore the girls on the nationwide tests. Similar claims about a boy-hostile school have become more and more common internationally over the last decade.

      I do not know where you see a “they can go elsewhere” argument. Further, I make no argument that women should form their own company—I argue that if there was an unfair bias against women, then this would be an obvious opportunity for enterprising women. That such companies have been rare, at best, is an argument against the existence of a bias—or against the existence of enterprising women (take your pick). Your own assumption that this would have to be done by feminists is absurd.

      michaeleriksson

      June 23, 2011 at 6:46 am

  9. […] has been discussed repeatedly, it is a myth that women earn less than men for equal work. Cf. e.g. [1]. The number of women who are raped is comparatively small—far smaller than feminists like to […]

  10. […] the names Will Smith, Barack Obama, Oprah, and Tiger Woods ring a bell?), misleading (including the 77 cents on the dollar fraud), or outright faulty. A recurring issue is the confusion of unequal outcomes with unequal […]

    White Guilt | mykemusic

    November 7, 2015 at 10:26 pm

  11. […] euro)—even using their own numbers. They are deliberately lying to their voters! See also e.g. my discussion of the 77 cents on the dollar and note the similarity of numbers over geography and time—this is exactly the kind of similarity […]


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