Equal Pay for All!

equal-pay-day-2.jpg
nownyc.org

By Bill Barclay

We have reached the day of the year when a typical working woman can finally say, “Well, I’ve caught up with what my male colleague made last year.” April 14 is the official date. Of course, assuming that her male colleague didn’t take a three-month unpaid vacation in the interim, she is now, again, more than three months behind him.

We all know there is a gender difference of about 20% in median pay. But what does this mean over the course of a lifetime? And does this percentage difference stay constant across the income hierarchy? 

Let’s go back to our typical woman being paid about 80% of what her male counterpart is paid. Sooner or later she will think about saving for retirement. Suppose our median-pay-level male worker puts aside 5% of his income each month; he will have saved almost $92,000 (in 2014 dollars) between age 25 and 65. Our median-paid working woman, in contrast, will have only a bit over $75,000. So, she can either work 10 years longer to age 75 (well, women do live longer!) or can save at a higher rate, about 6.5% rather than 5% of her income, to get to the same amount in the same number of working years. Of course, everyone believes that more savings is better than less savings but, more savings also means less money for food, housing, vacations, education, etc. 

The situation for our typical female and male worker is interesting, but maybe she has alternatives. Perhaps getting an education, maybe even an advanced degree, will help her overcome this pay gap. After all, we all “know” that more educated people are less likely to practice gender discrimination, right? And, really, what can the government do about this anyway – after all, it’s more than 50 years since President John F. Kennedy signed the “Equal Pay Act.” 

Well, it is true that getting more education usually increases your wage. A woman with an advanced degree earning in the top 10% of all women can expect to make over three times what her median-paid sister gets. But, a man at the same place in the education and incomes hierarchy will make about four times what his median-paid brother gets. The top 10% woman now has to work through June, not just mid-April, before she can say, "OK, I’ve caught up with my male top 10% colleague." In short, the gender pay gap at the upper end of the income hierarchy is greater than at the median level and increases as our male and female workers come closer to the top 1%. 

How does this gap at the top get created? It is often argued that women are more likely to take time off for childbearing and other family needs. There is strong evidence, however, that the gender pay gap, at least in high salary occupations, starts with discrimination in hiring at the beginning of a career. For example, in a study covering a decade of residents completing training in New York State that controlled for specialty choice, practice setting, work hours or other characteristics, women were paid almost $17,000 less than men as a starting salary. Similar results have been found for another high salary profession, lawyers. There is no evidence that female employees are less productive than male employees. Thus, what is happening is good old-fashioned discrimination; in Marxist terminology, the rate of surplus value extracted is higher for female than male employees.

There is a very different story if we look at the other end of the income and education hierarchies. Full-time women workers in the lowest income decile are paid 90% of the rate of full-time male workers at that same income decile. (Each decile is 10% of total wage earners.) That is, at the bottom of the income scale, women make closer to what men make than at the top of the scale. Similarly, women with less than a high school education are paid at a rate of over 86% of their male counterparts.

Why the different outcomes? The answer highlights the ability of universalistic legislation to counter particularistic inequality. The wage of employees in the lowest 10% is largely driven by the level of the minimum wage applicable to their workplace. The fight for $15 is about both class and gender. A $15 minimum wage will both reduce overall inequality and also help to reduce the gender pay gap. This advance will happen both by raising the earnings of the lowest paid workers and also by bumping up the wages of the tier of workers immediately above them as employers seek to maintain a wage hierarchy.

BilBarclayDustin-2.png Bill Barclay is on the Steering Committee of Chicago DSA, is a founding member of the Chicago Political Economy Group and serves as DSA National Member Organizer.

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.

 

LGBT Activism: A Brief History with Thoughts about the Future

April 01, 2017
· 67 rsvps

Historian John D'Emilio's presentation will do 3 things: Provide a brief explanation of how sexual and gender identities have emerged; provide an overview of the progression of LGBT activism since its origins in the 1950s, highlighting key moments of change; and, finally, suggest what issues, from a democratic socialist perspective, deserve prioritizing now. John co-authored Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, which was quoted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that ruled state sodomy laws unconstitutional. 1 pm ET; 12 pm CT; 11 am MT; 10 am PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Peg Strobel, peg.strobel@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 30 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But also check out the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT. Here's a blog post about PHIT.

What Is DSA? Training Call

April 05, 2017
· 12 rsvps

If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Feminist Working Group

April 12, 2017
· 30 rsvps

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's and LGBTQ issues, especially in light of the new political reality that we face after the elections.  9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

April 16, 2017
· 37 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 10 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.