04.10.2014 0

Does motherhood impact wages?

DollarBy Robert Romano

“[T]here is the issue of marriage and children. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that single women who have never married earned 96 percent of men’s earnings in 2012.The supposed pay gap appears when marriage and children enter the picture.”

That was the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark J. Perry and Andrew G. Biggs, writing for the Wall Street Journal, providing much-needed insight into the 23-cent pay gap between men and women.

It is stating the obvious. Women have babies, and when they do, a significant percentage of them leave the labor force.

As a result, female participation in the labor force is a lot lower than men: 57.2 percent versus 68.7 percent. That works out to 82.9 million men working or looking for work, and only 73.07 million women working or looking for work. That’s a 10 million person gap.

The difference is entirely on account of women choosing to become mothers. According to Pew, there are 10.4 million stay at home mothers in America.

Women do not work as much as men, nor as many hours, because so many of them are putting their careers on hold to take care of their children. Per Perry and Biggs, that accounts 19 out of 23 cents of the pay gap.

Per analysis by American Enterprise Institute resident fellow Christina Hoff Sommers, one of the problems with the 23-cent pay gap statistic is that it “does not account for differences in occupations, positions, education, job tenure, or hours worked per week… Much of the wage gap can be explained away by simply taking account of college majors.”

For whatever reason, per Bureau of Labor Statistics data, men tend to choose professions, such as engineers where they may up 75 percent of the work force, that pay more money. Social workers and early child educators, on the other hand, are much more likely to be women — 85 percent and 74 percent, respectively.

That is not workplace discrimination. These are choices.

And as a result of those choices, women on average make less money than men, and perhaps always will.

Besides, employer discrimination on the basis of gender is already against the law, per the 1963 Equal Pay Act.

Thus, being a non-problem, there is nothing to be legislated. Nothing should be taken up in either house of Congress on this issue, and Republicans that are currently blocking the so-called “Paycheck Fairness Act” now being considered should not cave into election year political pressure.

First, it is dishonest. Prosecutors already have federal law with which to enforce any claims of workplace discrimination. There is no accusation that employers are retaliating against their staffs for discussing pay with one another. That is a canard.

Second, it is bad policy to feed an incorrect perception of discrimination that exploits stay at home mothers to skew statistics, all for crass political gain. It will expose Republicans into legislating on behalf of every perceived victimhood out there.

Finally, it is bad politics. The voters the legislation might appeal to are not target Republican voters, not in 2014, and not in 2016.

In sum, women work less, their careers are delayed, and on top of that, they do not tend to work in the same professions as men, and as a result, they make less money on average. Congress cannot legislate these basic differences between men and women, nor should it.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government. 

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