Are Pay Equity Studies Equitable? Are State Rankings Meaningful?

Are Pay Equity Studies Equitable?  Are State Rankings meaningful?

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) recently published a state ranking of pay equity for college educated women as compared to men.

The report found that in the United States, the earnings gap between college educated men and women over 25 years of age and who work full-time year round was 71%, meaning these women make 29 cents less on the dollar nationally. They also reported the differences in pay equity by state.

While we do not dispute the numbers as put forth by the study i.e. women typically are paid less than men, we do question the validity of the issue and the reasons typically put forth for its existance.   We believe it presents a one sided argument in favor of legislation supporting the “Paycheck Fairness Act.”  The AAUW supports legislation that would close the gap with legislation.  The study has received significant publicity without some common sense rebuttal.

Why do we question the fairness and validity of this study?

We think many other factors also influence pay.

Should experience matter?  Would it be fair to require people with more experience to be paid the same as those with less experience?

Should training and knowledge matter?  Would it be fair to require pay to be the same for people with less training than others?

We believe training and experience should matter!!

The AAUW study neglects to point out that there are significant differences between men and women in the work place.

The Social Security Administration reports that women typically work 13 years less than men during their lifetimes.  13 years of less work experience for any person is meaningful.  You would expect those with less work experience regardless of sex to be paid less on average.

Women typically also leave the workforce to raise children.  One study has measured the average time women leave the workforce for child rearing at 11.5 years.  Women work less work years.  This typically also leads to less training and development of computer and other specific job skills that are part of the pay criteria.  Much of this is learned on the job.  It is common sense to expect people with less training and less experience to be paid less.

While we highly respect the important contributions that women make to our world, we do not believe the AAUW study should be considered as an important fact to support pay fairness.  Many women as matter of choice, happily leave the workforce.   We hope for the benefit of fairness that this study and the “Pay Fairness Act” do not become accepted wisdom and law.

The chart below is from the Urban Institute  The Urban Institute recognizes and charts the differences in male/female work experience. Men work significantly more years than women.
Cumulative Distribution of Work Years
The “Best and Worst States for Pay Equity” are listed below.  Read them with caution.  Interestingly we could not find any obvious conclusions from the listings.

The “Best State for Pay Equity” is Vermont.  Nearby New Hampshire is one of the “Worst States for Pay Equity.”  Does this suggest that employers in Vermont are more “fair” to women than in New Hampshire?  Why?

Are employers in Wisconsin or Montana fundamentally more “fair” than nearby poorly ranked Iowa?  Are there factors other than male/female pay discrimination that are more influential that create lower average pay for women in Iowa?  For example, do families in Wisconsin have a lower value for child rearing resulting in more work time for women and thus more pay?  We think that would be a meaningless conclusion.

There are many factors that influence differences in pay between the sexes.  We think state by state rankings offer limited insight and create numerous questions for understanding why.

Best States for Pay Equity

1) Vermont 87%
2) Hawaii 83%
3) Delaware 80%
4) New York 78%
5) Montana 77%
6) Wyoming 77%
7) New Mexico 77%
8) Wisconsin 76%
9) Oregon 76%
10) Nevada 75%

Worst States for Pay Equity

42) Utah 69%
43) Michigan 68%
44) Arkansas 68%
45) Iowa 68%
46) New Hampshire 68%
47) Oklahoma 67%
48) Virginia 67%
49) Mississippi 67%
50) West Virginia 67%
51) Louisiana 65

Finally, the AAUW Executive Director Linda D. Hallman, CAE, said “Our analysis is quite disturbing, especially when you consider how more and more families are depending on a woman’s paycheck as the primary source of income in these tough economic times. Consequently, the issue of pay equity takes on an added sense of urgency. This is just one of the reasons why we’re urging the Senate to join the House and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act,”

We disagree.

The “Paycheck Fairness Act” would be unfair if it punishes experience and training. Fairness requires that all people regardless of sex should be paid on the basis of experience and training as well.

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