Roundups Economic Justice

Not All Presidential Candidates Want to Solve Pay Inequality

Ally Boguhn

Pay inequality remains a problem in the United States. A 2014 analysis from the Economic Policy Institute found that men consistently made more than women across wage distributions.

The White House has announced efforts to continue to address the country’s persistent problems with equal pay on the seven-year anniversary of President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which provided more time for those experiencing pay inequality to file suit against their employers.

In addition to a call on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Obama administration announced that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Labor will publish a proposal to collect data each year from businesses with more than 100 employees, summarizing pay based on gender, race, and ethnicity.

Pay inequality remains a problem in the United States. A 2014 analysis from the Economic Policy Institute found that men consistently made more than women across wage distributions. Although the gender wage gap has narrowed since the 1970s, when women were paid 59 percent of what men were for the same job, research suggests that women are still paid 79 cents for every man’s dollar.

The gap often only widens when race is taken into account—Hispanic and Latina women make 54 percent, American Indian and Alaska Native women make 59 percent, and Black women make 64 percent of what a white man does.  

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But who among the field of 2016 presidential candidates is committed to changing that?

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton has long been a vocal proponent of ending gender pay inequality, having briefly touched on the subject during her 1995 Beijing address, where she famously declared that “women’s rights are human rights.”

While in the U.S. Senate, Clinton co-sponsored the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act itself and introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to address wage discrimination, in 2005, 2007, and 2009 after the legislation’s original sponsor, Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD), left Congress.

Clinton has come forward with several actions she claims could be taken to help address pay discrimination and inequality, such as an October proposal at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of penalizing workplaces that intimidate or retaliate against employees who discuss wages. Clinton also called for incentives for states to create tougher fair pay laws and for more federal legislation on the issue, according to the Huffington Post.

A Clinton campaign fact sheet notes that the Democratic presidential candidate proposes passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, raising wages for the lowest-paid jobs—disproportionately held by women—and establishing “workplace policies like paid leave and flexible scheduling that allow parents to take care of their obligations at home without sacrificing pay at work” in order to further address pay inequality.

However, Clinton has faced criticism after the Washington Free Beacon reported that Clinton did not pay her Senate staff members equally. Clinton’s campaign argued that the site relied on an “incomplete, and therefore inaccurate set of numbers” that did not take into account employees who did not work in the office for an entire fiscal year.

Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) has been a strong proponent of equal pay efforts, frequently bringing up the topic on the campaign trail and explaining how it disproportionately impacts women of color.

Sanders applauded efforts to address wage inequality in a series of tweets honoring the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act’s anniversary, writing that doing so is “especially important for women of color who face a pay gulf, not a gap.”

Sanders voted for the Paycheck Fairness Act, releasing a statement decrying Republicans’ efforts to block the measure.

Sanders included equal pay as a key component of his economic agenda.

Martin O’Malley

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley rounds out the Democratic presidential field with more support for ending the wage gap. In April 2014, O’Malley penned a blog post for the Huffington Post touting his record on the matter, which includes signing the Maryland Lilly Ledbetter Civil Rights Restoration Act and calling for more to be done to reach pay equality.

Donald Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told MSNBC’s Morning Joe in August that men and women deserve equal pay for equal work. Trump said he would conduct an economic review before implementing federal policies on pay equity, should he be elected.

“Women should have absolute access to capital,” Trump told hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. “If they do the same job, they should get the same pay.”

But by November, the controversial figure had dismissed the gender pay gap entirely, attributing pay disparities to performance differences during a convention in New Hampshire. Although he noted that he “respect[s] women incredibly,” he went on to blame women for the pay disparities they face, telling an audience member that “you’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.”  

Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has dismissed the need for equal pay measures, claiming that wage equality is already enforced in the law and that efforts to address the pay gap are nothing more than a political ploy by Democrats. “They’ve written these bills because they know that they won’t pass and they’re doing it just to score political points,” Cruz claimed in a 2014 interview on Fox News. “This has nothing to do with equal pay for equal work. That’s been the law for decades.”

Although he went on to agree that women still “have a long way to go” to achieve equality in the workplace, Cruz asserted that federal measures to address that shouldn’t move forward.

Cruz solidified his opposition to federal equal pay measures by voting to block the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Marco Rubio

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has been an outspoken opponent to the Lilly Ledbetter Act, claiming it is “nothing but an effort to help trial lawyers collect their fees and file lawsuits.”

When asked by a representative of Make It Work about pay inequality during a November campaign event, Rubio dismissed the need for such legislation, saying “it’s already illegal” for women to be paid differently than men.

After being pushed to answer for his Senate votes against the Paycheck Fairness Act, Rubio claimed that “all it really did is just help lawyers sue.”

Rand Paul

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has consistently voted against equal pay legislation. Speaking about the Paycheck Fairness Act in 2012, Paul bizarrely claimed equal pay legislation was a step towards the United States becoming the Soviet Union.

“In the Soviet Union, the Politburo decided the price of bread, and they either had no bread or too much bread. So setting prices or wages by the government is always a bad idea,” Paul said. “The minute you set up a fairness czar to determine what wages are, you give away freedom.”

John Kasich

During an October appearance before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Gov. John Kasich faced questions about why women in his state still faced wage inequality. “Well, a lot of it is based on experience,” Kasich said, according to ThinkProgress. “A lot of different factors go into it. It’s all tied up in skills. Do you not have the skills to be able to compete?”

When pressed about whether he was suggesting that women were “less skilled” than men, Kasich denied the accusation and noted that he had women helping to run his presidential campaign.

Kasich this month acknowledged that the gender pay gap exists, but claimed family leave policies were hurting efforts to address it. “When women take maternity leave or time to be with the children, then what happens is they fall behind on the experience level, which means that the pay becomes a differential,” Kasich said, despite evidence that paid family leave policies could help fight against pay inequality.

An investigation conducted by Ohio’s Dayton Daily News in 2014 found that Kasich’s office had the highest gender pay gap among statewide officeholders, paying women an average of $9.81 less per hour than men, although Kasich’s office claimed the analysis didn’t take into account staff from other state agencies.

Chris Christie

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s office in 2012 released a statement committing to taking action on equal pay and announcing that the governor had signed legislation “creating a statewide notice requirement for employers to directly and routinely advise their employees of the right to be free from pay and benefits discrimination.”

“Everyone in the workplace—whether the employer or employee—needs to be on notice that, as with all forms of bias, compensation discrimination due to gender is illegal and has no place in our modern workforce,” Christie’s statement said. “Too often, women’s value and contributions in the workplace have been undermined and shortchanged merely because of their gender. I fully endorse the Legislature’s efforts in this regard, and that is why I signed this sensible, preventative measure into law.”

Christie has since been less enthusiastic about pushing through related measures, vetoing two equal pay billsone of which he claimed was just “senseless bureaucracy”and signing another only after recommending changes be made to it.

Commentary Economic Justice

The Gender Wage Gap Is Not Women’s Fault, and Here’s the Report That Proves It

Kathleen Geier

The fact is, in every occupation and at every level, women earn less than men doing exactly the same work.

A new report confirms what millions of women already know: that women’s choices are not to blame for the gender wage gap. Instead, researchers at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the progressive think tank that issued the report, say that women’s unequal pay is driven by “discrimination, social norms, and other factors beyond women’s control.”

This finding—that the gender pay gap is caused by structural factors rather than women’s occupational choices—is surprisingly controversial. Indeed, in my years as a journalist covering women’s economic issues, the subject that has been most frustrating for me to write about has been the gender gap. (Full disclosure: I’ve worked as a consultant for EPI, though not on this particular report.) No other economic topic I’ve covered has been more widely misunderstood, or has been so outrageously distorted by misrepresentations, half-truths, and lies.

That’s because, for decades, conservatives have energetically promoted the myth that the gender pay gap does not exist. They’ve done such a bang-up job of it that denying the reality of the gap, like denying the reality of global warming, has become an article of faith on the right. Conservative think tanks like the Independent Women’s Forum and the American Enterprise Institute and right-wing writers at outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Breitbart, and the Daily Caller have denounced the gender pay gap as “a lie,” “not the real story,” “a fairy tale,” “a statistical delusion,” and “the myth that won’t die.” Sadly, it is not only right-wing propagandists who are gender wage gap denialists. Far more moderate types like Slate’s Hanna Rosin and the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson have also claimed that the gender wage gap statistic is misleading and exaggerates disparities in earnings.

According to the most recent figures available from the Census Bureau, for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes only 79 cents, a statistic that has barely budged in a decade. And that’s just the gap for women overall; for most women of color, it’s considerably larger. Black women earn only 61 percent of what non-Hispanic white men make, and Latinas earn only 55 percent as much. In a recent survey, U.S. women identified the pay gap as their biggest workplace concern. Yet gender wage gap denialists of a variety of political stripes contend that gender gap statistic—which measures the difference in median annual earnings between men and women who work full-time, year-round—is inaccurate because it does not compare the pay of men and women doing the same work. They argue that when researchers control for traits like experience, type of work, education, and the like, the gender gap evaporates like breath on a window. In short, the denialists frame the gender pay gap as the product not of sexist discrimination, but of women’s freely made choices.

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The EPI study’s co-author, economist Elise Gould, said in an interview with Rewire that she and her colleagues realized the need for the new report when an earlier paper generated controversy on social media. That study had uncovered an “unadjusted”—meaning that it did not control for differences in workplace and personal characteristics—$4 an hour gender wage gap among recent college graduates. Gould said she found this pay disparity “astounding”: “You’re looking at two groups of people, men and women, with virtually the same amount of experience, and yet their wages are so different.” But critics on Twitter, she said, claimed that the wage gap simply reflected the fact that women were choosing lower-paid jobs. “So we wanted to take out this one idea of occupational choice and look at that,” Gould said.

Gould and her co-author Jessica Schieder highlight two important findings in their EPI report. One is that, even within occupations, and even after controlling for observable factors such as education and work experience, the gender wage gap remains stubbornly persistent. As Gould told me, “If you take a man and a woman sitting side by side in a cubicle, doing the same exact job with the same amount of experience and the same amount of education, on average, the man is still going to be paid more than the woman.”

The EPI report cites the work of Harvard economist Claudia Goldin, who looked at the relative weight in the overall wage gap of gender-based pay differences within occupations versus those between occupations. She found that while gender pay disparities between different occupations explain 32 percent of the gap, pay differences within the same occupation account for far more—68 percent, or more than twice as much. In other words, even if we saw equal numbers of men and women in every profession, two-thirds of the gender wage gap would still remain.

And yes, female-dominated professions pay less, but the reasons why are difficult to untangle. It’s a chicken-and-egg phenomenon, the EPI report explains, raising the question: Are women disproportionately nudged into low-status, low-wage occupations, or do these occupations pay low wages simply because it is women who are doing the work?

Historically, “women’s work” has always paid poorly. As scholars such as Paula England have shown, occupations that involve care work, for example, are associated with a wage penalty, even after controlling for other factors. But it’s not only care work that is systematically devalued. So, too, is work in other fields where women workers are a majority—even professions that were not initially dominated by women. The EPI study notes that when more women became park rangers, for example, overall pay in that occupation declined. Conversely, as computer programming became increasingly male-dominated, wages in that sector began to soar.

The second major point that Gould and Schieder emphasize is that a woman’s occupational choice does not occur in a vacuum. It is powerfully shaped by forces like discrimination and social norms. “By the time a woman earns her first dollar, her occupational choice is the culmination of years of education, guidance by mentors, parental expectations, hiring practices, and widespread norms and expectations about work/family balance,” Gould told Rewire. One study cited by Gould and Schieder found that in states where traditional attitudes about gender are more prevalent, girls tend to score higher in reading and lower in math, relative to boys. It’s one of many findings demonstrating that cultural attitudes wield a potent influence on women’s achievement. (Unfortunately, the EPI study does not address racism, xenophobia, or other types of bias that, like sexism, shape individuals’ work choices.)

Parental expectations also play a key role in shaping women’s occupational choices. Research reflected in the EPI study shows that parents are more likely to expect their sons to enter male-dominated science, technology, engineering, and math (often called STEM) fields, as opposed to their daughters. This expectation holds even when their daughters score just as well in math.

Another factor is the culture in male-dominated industries, which can be a huge turn-off to women, especially women of color. In one study of women working in science and technology, Latinas and Black women reported that they were often mistaken for janitors—something that none of the white women in the study had experienced. Another found that 52 percent of highly qualified women working in science and technology ended up leaving those fields, driven out by “hostile work environments and extreme job pressures.”

Among those pressures are excessively long hours, which make it difficult to balance careers with unpaid care work, for which women are disproportionately responsible. Goldin’s research, Gould said, shows that “in jobs that have more temporal flexibility instead of inflexibility and long hours, you do see a smaller gender wage gap.” Women pharmacists, for example, enjoy relatively high pay and a narrow wage gap, which Goldin has linked to flexible work schedules and a professional culture that enables work/life balance. By contrast, the gender pay gap is widest in highest-paying fields such as finance, which disproportionately reward those able to work brutally long hours and be on call 24/7.

Fortunately, remedies for the gender wage gap are at hand. Gould said that strong enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, greater wage transparency (which can be achieved through unions and collective bargaining), and more flexible workplace policies would all help to alleviate gender-based pay inequities. Additional solutions include raising the minimum wage, which would significantly boost the pay of the millions of women disproportionately concentrated in the low-wage sector, and enacting paid family leave, a policy that would be a boon for women struggling to combine work and family. All of these issues are looming increasingly large in our national politics.

But in order to advance these policies, it’s vital to debunk the right’s shameless, decades-long disinformation campaign about the gender gap. The fact is, in every occupation and at every level, women earn less than men doing exactly the same work. The right alleges that the official gender pay gap figure exaggerates the role of discrimination. But even statistics that adjust for occupation and other factors can, in the words of the EPI study, “radically understate the potential for gender discrimination to suppress women’s earnings.”

Contrary to conservatives’ claims, women did not choose to be paid consistently less than men for work that is every bit as valuable to society. But with the right set of policies, we can reverse the tide and bring about some measure of economic justice to the hard-working women of the United States.

News Politics

Tim Kaine Changes Position on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back the Hyde Amendment's ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate, has promised to stand with nominee Hillary Clinton in opposing the Hyde Amendment, a ban on federal funding for abortion care.

Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, told CNN’s State of the Union Sunday that Kaine “has said that he will stand with Secretary Clinton to defend a woman’s right to choose, to repeal the Hyde amendment,” according to the network’s transcript.

“Voters can be 100 percent confident that Tim Kaine is going to fight to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Mook said.

The commitment to opposing Hyde was “made privately,” Clinton spokesperson Jesse Ferguson later clarified to CNN’s Edward Mejia Davis.

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Kaine’s stated support for ending the federal ban on abortion funding is a reversal on the issue for the Virginia senator. Kaine this month told the Weekly Standard  that he had not “been informed” that this year’s Democratic Party platform included a call for repealing the Hyde Amendment. He said he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

Repealing the Hyde Amendment has been an issue for Democrats on the campaign trail this election cycle. Speaking at a campaign rally in New Hampshire in January, Clinton denounced Hyde, noting that it made it “harder for low-income women to exercise their full rights.”

Clinton called the federal ban on abortion funding “hard to justify” when asked about it later that month at the Brown and Black Presidential Forum, adding that “the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.”

Clinton’s campaign told Rewire during her 2008 run for president that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

The Democratic Party on Monday codified its commitment to opposing Hyde, as well as the Helms Amendment’s ban on foreign assistance funds being used for abortion care. 

The Obama administration, however, has not signaled support for rolling back Hyde’s ban on federal funding for abortion care.

When asked about whether the president supported the repeal of Hyde during the White House press briefing Tuesday, Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz said he did not “believe we have changed our position on the Hyde Amendment.”

When pushed by a reporter to address if the administration is “not necessarily on board” with the Democratic platform’s call to repeal Hyde, Schultz said that the administration has “a longstanding view on this and I don’t have any changes in our position to announce today.”