National Post

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Saturday, April 10, 1999

Statistics and other lies

National Post

While treating women like playthings in his personal life, Bill Clinton, the U.S. president, tries to compensate by blathering incessantly about "wage gaps," "glass ceilings," and "pink ghettos" -- this week trotting out the tired statistic that "women earn about 75 cents for every dollar a man earns." In a move designed to protest this outrage, Mr. Clinton and the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) joined together to declare Thursday "Equal Pay Day."

But as Diana Furchtgott-Roth and Christine Stolba show in Women's Figures: An Illustrated Guide to the Economic Progress of Women in America, every day in the U.S. is an equal pay day. When econometricians take into account such essential factors in determining wages as age, experience, education, and consecutive years in the work force, it can be shown that American women make 95 to 98 on the man's dollar. And younger cohorts of recently graduated, college-educated women actually earn discernably more than their male counterparts.

Groups such as the NCPE and the National Organization for Women arrive at wildly different figures only because they fail to adjust for the above-mentioned variables and then compare the average wage of all women working full-time with the average wage of all men working full-time.

Equally corrupt statistics attend the "glass-ceiling phenomenon." In 1995, the Glass Ceiling Commission issued a report finding that only 5% of senior managers at Fortune 1,000 and Fortune 500 service companies were women and so attributed this to systemic discrimination. But the commission simply compared the ratio of women in the total labour force -- without reference to experience or education -- to the number wielding management authority at large corporations.

The women-as-victims mantra is not only factually unsound, but also insulting to all those workers, both men and women, who opt for flexibility and other non-monetary compensation throughout their careers. Why, a decade after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, does Mr. Clinton insist on statistical parity in one area -- wages -- as the sole test of equality?

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