In honor of Equal Pay Day—when various groups highlight the popular wage gap statistic that women make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men—the Paycheck Fairness Act was reintroduced in Congress today. AEI scholar Christina Hoff Sommers highlighted problems with the act when it came up for a vote last year:
Some of the bill’s supporters admit that the pay gap is largely explained by women’s choices, but they argue that those choices are skewed by sexist stereotypes and social pressures. Those are interesting and important points, worthy of continued public debate.
The problem is that while the debate proceeds, the bill assumes the answer: it would hold employers liable for the “lingering effects of past discrimination”—”pay disparities” that have been “spread and perpetuated through commerce.” Under the bill, it’s not enough for an employer to guard against intentional discrimination; it also has to police potentially discriminatory assumptions behind market-driven wage disparities that have nothing to do with sexism.
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a former chief economist of the U.S. Department of Labor, breaks down the wage gap and points out that the Paycheck Fairness Act could slow the growth of jobs for both men and women. Carrie Lukas of the Independent Women’s Forum wrote an excellent article in today’s Wall Street Journal proving that when you take into account preferences about work styles and environments, the claim that discrimination causes a wage gap falls apart. Mark Perry also blogs below on the gender wage gap fallacy.
Keriann Hopkins is a research assistant at AEI.