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Gender wage gap in Obama’s White House: Female staffers earn only 88 cents on the dollar compared to men

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In his address last Wednesday at the Center for American Progress, President Obama made the following statement:

It’s also true that women make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. So we’re going to need strong application of anti-discrimination laws… we’re going to need targeted initiatives to close those gaps….

That remark is consistent with this statement on the White House website with the heading “Did You Know That Women Are Still Paid Less Than Men?

On average, full-time working women earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. This significant gap is more than a statistic — it has real life consequences. When women, who make up nearly half the workforce, bring home less money each day, it means they have less for the everyday needs of their families, and over a lifetime of work, far less savings for retirement.

In a CD post last September, I documented the significant gender wage gap for the White House staff, based on salary data from the “2013 Annual Report to Congress on White House Staff.” An analysis of White House payroll data reveals that the 229 female employees in the Obama White House are being paid a median annual salary of $65,000 this year, compared to a median annual salary of nearly $73,729 for the 229 male White House staffers (see chart above). In other words, female staffers at the Obama White House are paid less than 88 cents for every dollar paid to male staffers, and there is therefore a significant White House “gender pay gap” of more than 12%. 

So I guess some obvious questions for Obama would include: Did you know that women working in your White House are paid less than men? Specifically, are you aware that female White House staffers earn 88 cents on the dollar compared to your male staffers? And shouldn’t your targeted initiatives to close the gender wage gap start in your own White House?

Note: The post has been updated on January 30, 2014 to reflect a minor error in the White House salary database. The original version of this post said that female staffers at that White House made 87 cents for every dollar a male staffer earns, and that should be “88 cents for every dollar a male staffer earns.”

31 thoughts on “Gender wage gap in Obama’s White House: Female staffers earn only 88 cents on the dollar compared to men

  1. So I sort the 2013 Annual Report to the lowest paying position, being “policy analyst”. I don’t see a “gender pay gap”.

    The pay scale must be a joke. You work at the lowest level for POTUS for $42,000 per annum. Become a senior analyst for 10 bucks a week more. My guess is that pay is 12 bucks per hour (3500 hours divided by $42,000).

    The outrage is where is the Department of Labor “overtime pay”. I guess if you are an analyst you’re hoping that the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation hires you for more money at some point in the future.

    • ” I guess if you are an analyst you’re hoping that the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation hires you for more money at some point in the future.”

      There is a value to gaining experience.

      There was a guy in my High School, real go getter, Valediction of my class. After getting a law degree, he spent several years doing low pay speeches for Bill Bennett, probably at the rates you mentioned. His sacrifice paid off, because it help him get connected to various big people and he ended up in a high power hedge fund, where he eventually was instrumental in founding and selling PayPal. It also allowed him to provide initial venture capital for Facebook. He is now worth probably 400x – 500x what all the people who post on this blog are worth combined.

      I am sure he doesn’t complain about earning 40K in the first years out of law school.

      • Analysis by anecdote is meaningless. I would have thought that POTUS policy analysts would be making half the salary of “Big Law” rookies or $75K per year. Not the same hourly wage rate as some assistant manager at a fast food franchise firm. Color me surprised.

        In any event, there is no gender wage gap at the policy analyst position in the White House.

        • In any event, there is no gender wage gap at the policy analyst position in the White House.“…

          Hilarious!

          I guess that it wouldn’t be a continuation of the Democrats war on women if everyone was an analyst…

        • Not true. If you come up with a hypothesis and I can find just one fault – your hypothesis is false. I know a person who used his low pay job to gain experience and connections. Therefore the hypothesis that these low pay jobs are worthless is false.

          It also supports your conjecture that possibly the folks are slaving away for experience and future gain – and I have supplied one data point that validates that argument. You really aren’t all that hip with the scientific method are you?

  2. What about experience? Maybe, females had better entry level opportunities than males (to equalize the number of male and female staffers – 231 to 228, and I wonder how old the average male is compared to the average female).

    • Those are all part of the problem.

      Another problem folks don’t talk about much:

      Fast track – women who get promoted faster so would earn more than their contemporary male (based on years experience), but less than their work piers because of less work experience. The stats do not take time into account, just position level.

      I read somewhere recently for same types of jobs out of college women get an average of 8% more than men in similar fields, because of higher grades and award and a bit of “wink wink” fairness.

      • Yes, and it should be noted, there are many women, who have babies or raise children, or better yet, cook dinner for their husbands :)

  3. Mr. Perry, you’re really reaching. The bottom line is that the President’s track record is much better than average. The only thing your analysis does is make YOU look foolish and petty.

          • It seems that an explanation is needed.

            If the correct statistic is that women currently make 77 cents for every dollar that men make – which is the average (right, fellows?) – and, if the statistic is correct that in the Obama White House, women make 87 cents for every dollar that men make, then the Obama White House is doing considerably better than the average.

            As an aside, I don’t have a problem with the 77% statistic – because the absolute number is not what’s really important. We economists are more concerned with change than absolute numbers. Right, Dr. Perry? And what’s been happening for at least the past couple of decades is a closing of the gap between men’s and women’s salaries. As long as the number – currently 77% — is moving in the right direction, e.g., a percentage point or two every year or so – and it has been for many years, then we’re okay, that is, women are making progress toward equity, which is a good thing, right?

            Dr. Perry, do you have comparable statistics for the Bush Administration?

          • If the correct statistic is that women currently make 77 cents for every dollar that men make –

            The statistic is bogus when you add in context: Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that there is a discrepancy. These feminists argue that it exists because of sexism without addressing the “equal work” part of the argument. But look at the careers women choose compared to men. They are generally less dangerous, lower-paying, require less travel, are more frequently part-time and more likely to be volunteer work, according to the 2011 White House report “Women in America.” Not only is their work “not equal” on average, which closes the alleged gap significantly, but it seems to be a conscious choice.

            To hammer home the point, in 2012 the Census Bureau released data demonstrating that single women’s pay has outstripped their male counterpart’s pay in metropolitan areas of the country. So does sexism only start after women wed?

            http://www.michigancapitolconfidential.com/17591

            Dr. Perry, do you have comparable statistics for the Bush Administration?

            Who cares? It isn’t the GOP making cheap political hay with the “war on women” rubbish.

          • greenblue

            We economists are more concerned with change than absolute numbers. Right, Dr. Perry?

            You are an economist? Oh lord help us. Perhaps a more accurate statement would be “We political activists are more concerned with change than absolute numbers.”

            As an aside, I don’t have a problem with the 77% statistic – because the absolute number is not what’s really important [...] And what’s been happening for at least the past couple of decades is a closing of the gap between men’s and women’s salaries. As long as the number – currently 77% — is moving in the right direction, e.g., a percentage point or two every year or so – and it has been for many years, then we’re okay, that is, women are making progress toward equity, which is a good thing, right?”

            It seems that an explanation is needed.

            I’ll say! As an “economist” why do you believe that women making 77% as much as men is a problem?

            As an ax grinder you would certainly be concerned about any differences without caring to know the reasons for them, facts be damned, but as an economist you might understand there are good reasons for the difference, and that they have little to do with unfair discrimination against women.

            Your reference to “moving in the right direction” indicates that you must know what the correct difference is, and that it is currently not where you prefer it to be. If that’s the case, please inform us what the correct number is.

            If you believe men and women should make the same amount, then you are unaware of the reasons for the current difference, and you aren’t speaking as an economist.

  4. You might also go back to the 2008 Presidential Campaign and check the comparison between Senator Obama’s office pay scale and that of Senator McCain, especially the male vs female scales.

    Cheers

    • Paul, all of those factors are known to those of us who are aware of the studies.

      But — given the fact that women are now more likely than men to graduate from college — I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that the trend (narrowing of the pay gap) will continue.

      • If you know about all the mentioned factors, then you (and the Democrat party) don’t have much to complain about.

        I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that the trend (narrowing of the pay gap) will continue.

        Do you think women will stop having babies and start getting the jobs that require heavy lifting?

  5. If it is true that women earn 77c for every dollar that their male counterparts receive would we not expect to find firms which employ colossal numbers of women on the grounds that they cost less than men?

    Do such firms exist?

    Perhaps our difficulty arises from our propensity to anthropomorphize collective nouns.

  6. This is just awful, awful, awful. You take all women in every position and then average the pay and this points to women getting paid less? What positions do they hold? How long have they been in those positions? If you want to find a pay gap you need to look at a man and woman with the same qualifications, same work experience, and working the same hours per week. You can’t just take the mean and say “Look! Women are paid less!”

  7. When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and
    now each time a comment is added I get several e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove me from that service?
    Many thanks!

  8. Wow. it is so nice to see so much ignorance on display. (Note: when I use “ignorance”, I mean “don’t know”.) The “discrepancy” can be explained by the govt pay charts. In the Federal government, your pay is set in stone by the paygrade you occupy. So both male and females in the same paygrade HAVE to get the same pay, (unlike the private sector, where they are talking about male and females in the SAME jobs). So, any difference in the Obama WH is because they are in separate pay grades.
    It is that simple.
    I think Dr Perry (the author) should be ashamed and shamed for being so ignorant.

    • You are absolutely correct. Pay levels are set by the Office of Personnel Management, not by the White House.
      Secondly, the report this so called information does not include the data to come to any kind of conclusion. There is nothing to indicate pay grade or tenure. There is nothing to indicate the gender of the person listed. Tell me, is Jordan Lillie a male or a female? How about Kelsey Merrick? Kori Shulman? Ronnie Cho? There are multiple others. If you don’t know the gender of the person then all that can be gleaned from this are ASSumptions.

  9. This is an intellectually dishonest attack. If you look at the data, men and women with the same position titles are paid the same.

    Politics is a field heavily dominated by men. It always has been. Thus it is not the least bit surprising that there would be more men than women available to fill the higher paying positions. The article has a link to the data. Check it for yourself.

  10. To those saying men and women are paid the same in the White House if you are comparing those doing the same job, CONGRATULATIONS, you just got the point.

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