Equal Pay Day arrived for women on April 2 this year. According to gender rights advocates, the average woman must add to her 2018 income three months of work in 2018 to make as much as the average white man made in 2018. In other words, a woman in Connecticut only makes 83 percent of what a man makes in income. Black and Latina women are even more disadvantaged compared to white men. Oddly, the wages of black and Hispanic men seem to be excluded from the calculations for black and Hispanic women.
Gender gap ratios do not actually compare salaries of full time employees working the same job. Such reports just use averages based on the salaries of men and women across companies, industries, and job titles. How this information is gathered is a mystery to me. I suspect census data or IRS compilations are used but these figures often show great variation.
Interestingly, it is difficult for those calling for new laws to deal with wage discrimination to find instances of wage discrimination. After all, both Federal and Connecticut law forbids wage discrimination. A few years ago a spokesperson for the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities reported, “the number of women who complain about not getting as much as their male counterparts is small.”
All government employees, for example, work on gender-neutral pay scales. Teachers, police officers, firefighters, mail carriers, all get the same pay for the same work. Even high income occupations are no longer the exclusive male bastions of the past. The medical and financial professions have become increasingly open to women and will become moreso since the majority of college graduates today are women. No modern corporation would dare to have differing wage scales for men and women. Nevertheless, most engineering students are still men and over 90 percent of art history students are women, a factor that obviously contributes to disparity in income.
I would venture to guess that the disparity in gender income is largely based on decisions that people choose to make. A few years ago a statistical survey came to the comical conclusion that it was better for a woman to live in Bridgeport, where the gender gap was narrow, than in Darien or New Canaan where it was the widest despite the fact that the average income of women in those towns is twice the income of women living in Bridgeport.
Obviously, talented well-educated women choose to live in towns like New Canaan and Darien because of the beautiful homes, excellent school systems, and crime free streets.
One of the statistics noted that in both New Canaan and Darien the number of married women in the work force is only about 40 percent compared to a national average of about 60 percent. While one of the “experts” quoted in the article referred to the “nostalgic idea of what the family is supposed to look like,” and called it a “romantic notion,” it still seems to be working very well in New Canaan and Darien. Compare that romantic notion with the one espoused years ago by Murphy Brown and see the devastation that single motherhood has brought to the lives of so many single mothers and their children in cities like Bridgeport.
It is a sad fact that the low income of single, unwed mothers does statistically drag down average median income for women. Poverty is practically an inevitable result when women have children before they have jobs or marry. The obvious success of Asian immigrants in this country is basically due to what one researcher called a traditional “success sequence” of education, work, marriage, and children in that order. In China, where she grew up, illegitimacy was unthinkable. Even in modern China, the out of wedlock birth rate is only 4 percent.
The same figures used by gender rights advocates show that women of Asian descent make substantially more that black or Hispanic women. Politicians in New York City are trying to change the admission standards for the city’s elite public high schools. Candidates for admission must take a competitive entrance exam to get into one of these schools. Currently, students of Asian immigrants gain 50 percent of the places even though Asian-Americans make up only 16 percent of the city’s population. I suspect that Asian women do as well if not better than white men on these tests.
Politicians and commentators who think that legal measures like minimum wage laws and paid family leave will close the gender gap are sadly mistaken. Using their own figures, it appears as if the gender-equity gap has disappeared in cities like Bridgeport. What has been the result? Has Bridgeport become utopia? It used to be said that if you were not part of the solution, you were part of the problem.
But if you don’t understand the problem, you can’t be part of the solution. It would be appropriate next year if Equal Pay Day were to fall on April 1.
Francis P. DeStefano, Ph.D., of Fairfield, is a writer, lecturer, historian and retired financial planner.
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