Friday, June 24, 2005

Unpacking the wage gap

feminism alert!Ampersand has a great post today on the nature and sources of the wage gap. He rebuts the facile claims of a couple of columnists, and links to much more analysis for those who are interested. Take-home for those not planning to follow the link: the wage gap doesn't arise from an employer looking at two candidates and choosing to pay one a higher wage; it's about systematic inequalities in the way different jobs are valued and particular family structures assumed. Highlights:
I call this last factor the “Father Knows Best” economy; most jobs implicitly assume that workers have wives at home who are taking care of the kids and house, so that these responsibilities never need to be accomidated for by the employer. Maybe that assumption made sense half a century ago, but it doesn’t make sense now; and by continuing to implicitly make this assumption, our economy is making it unfairly difficult for caretakers (who are usually mothers) to have careers.
Historically, this process has happened many times; for instance, schoolteacher wages dropped as towns discovered that hiring a schoolmarm was much cheaper than hiring a male teacher. Similarly, secretarial wages plummeted as that became a female-dominated occupation. In a well-documented example, bank tellers changed from a male-dominated to a female-dominated occupation as wages (and prestige) dropped.
But why are jobs and careers designed in such a way that primary caretakers are punished? (Remember what I said about the “Fathers Knows Best” economy). And isn’t it possible that in a less sexist society, any parenting wage penalty would be split more evenly between women and men?
But really, the whole essay is full of good arguments and valuable statistics -- worth reading over your next coffee break

Best gratuitous snark of the week:
There’s just so much illogic here to be unpacked, I feel like the wardrobe wrangler on a Cher concert tour.
heh heh...

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