Science is our most reliable means for learning about the world–when it’s done right. However, because science has rightly gained a good reputation in these matters, there are plenty of people who want to borrow that reputation for their own ends. It’s not hard to do. All you have to do is do science poorly.
Remember that when you hear about studies that “prove” the wage gap between the sexes isn’t due to discrimination. Bryce Covert takes apart one of these studies in The Nation.
I would love to agree with Ramesh Ponnuru’s latest Bloomberg column, in which he argues that the gender wage gap—in which women on average still make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes—is not caused by discrimination. Ponnuru argues that, rather, it’s caused by different choices women make in their career paths and family formations. Wouldn’t it be great if the gap didn’t exist because women are held back and given less, but because they simply want different things? And it’s certainly true that the fact that women are congregated in a different set of jobs and often have to leave the workforce when they have children plays a role. But even this can’t explain away the gap.
Ponnuru cites research by conservative economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth and a consulting company showing that the gap all but disappears when factors such as women working fewer hours, going part-time or taking breaks from their careers are taken into account. But the Government Accountability Office has already examined this question. The GAO tried to figure out just how much of the gap could be explained by these sorts of factors. To do so, it first performed a quantitative analysis using data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a nationally representative longitudinal data set. It also supplemented that work by interviewing experts, reviewing the literature and contacting employers.
What did the study find?
That was when Covert started bringing the reputable data. It was comprehensive and it was beautiful. Check it out, and save the link for the next time you run across these wage gap “studies”.