Friday, April 11, 2014

My very strong impression on the public perceptions of the gender pay gap is that...

The population that thinks there is no discrimination against women in the labor market [UPDATE:] is not a major factor is far bigger than the share that thinks the raw pay gap is entirely due to discrimination.

I think this differential widens when you talk to a broadly defined set of informed commenters (people with degrees in economics, that read a lot, etc.). In other words I think there are a whole lot more Steve Horwitz's and Mark Perry's that are willing to say discrimination is not a major factor and they are sure about that than there are informed feminists walking around saying the raw differential is all discrimination.

If you have a different impression, then please don't tell me I've "missed the point", understand that we have different senses of the discourse from each other and that you appear to "miss the point" from my perspective, except for the fact that I recognize we have different impressions on this.

UPDATE: A commenter on Bob Murphy's blog wrote this recently in defense of what I contend are extremely misleading claims about the wage gap:

"In casual conversation, it’s much easier to say to someone “the male/female wage gap is a myth” than it is to say “well technically that’s true but if you control for hours worked, marital status, and age, the gap vanishes to a statistically insignificant and trivial amount.”

This is precisely what I mean when I say that this is a problem in how people like Steve Horwitz are framing it. If you think that what matters in assessing gender disparities is the conditional difference in means in a straight wage equation you are really missing the point,


  1. I would agree that there are more people who say that discrimination is not a *major* factor compared to those who claim it is all discrimination. That is different than you're opening line which has the comparison group as people who believe there is "no discrimination."

    1. Thanks for pointing that out - I'll adjust for consistency.

      I don't know if "no discrimination" is bigger than "all discrimination" or not. I suspect it is bigger, but I won't keep it that way because it distracts from my point. The problematic share of people who think discrimination is a small part of the story, and more importantly who hold that position strongly because the conditional difference in means gets smaller is much bigger than the problematic share of people who think it's all discrimination.

      Which is precisely why I feel like people like Mark Perry are a bigger concern than outspoken feminists that don't think through the claim. It's also why I feel like politicians who think like Mark Perry are more dangerous than politicians who think like this generic feminist (I still am a little short on concrete examples of that case...)

  2. Here's my take:

    The population that thinks discrimination against women in the labor market is not a major factor is no bigger than the share that thinks the raw pay gap is mainly due to discrimination, where discrimination encompasses both direct forms (employer discrimination) and indirect forms (e.g. differential treatment of genders from a young age on the basis of cultural norms).

    My favorite presentation on the issue is this one between Liz Spelke and Steven Pinker (and one of the best live debates I've seen) :

    The best part is from 1:39-1:47.

  3. Unable to supply references after 40 years, but seems to me that I went through this discussion when I was in grad school...


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