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What The Media Tell Americans About Free Enterprise

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April 1997


Media Ignore Holes in Study of Women's Earnings
Feminism Trumps Truth

Journalists commonly drop any hint of skepticism when a study seems to affirm their view of the world. The latest example: a report from the National Committee on Pay Equity claiming to demonstrate an unconscionable gap between the earnings of men and women in the U.S.

Katie Couric introduced viewers to the study, which had been trumpeted in Glamour magazine, on the April 11 Today: "Glamour magazine has designated today as Ask Your Boss for a Raise Day because today, three and a half months into 1997, marks the day when women's earnings finally catch up to what a man made in 1996, which really stinks."

Couric, after announcing that "this month's Glamour says it's time for women to get greedy, or really seek parity," interviewed Jill Herzig, a senior editor of Glamour. Herzig claimed that "for the last decade women have earned 71 cents for every dollar a man earns doing exactly the same work, and over a 30-year typical career span that adds up to a quarter of a million dollars, a huge amount of money. And this disparity exists in almost any field you can name. For example, on an assembly line a woman earns $306 doing exactly the same job that a man earns $396 for."

Instead of challenging her guest, Couric restated Herzig's point: "And it's important to point out this is less pay for the very same work."

That evening, ABC's World News Tonight displayed the same lack of skepticism about the study. "From an organization called the National Committee on Pay Equity today, a study on how salaries compare for men and women," began Peter Jennings. "It says that in order to earn what the average man earned last year, 1996, the average woman has had to go on working through the first three months and two weeks of this year, including today. Put another way, last year women earned only 71 cents of what men made and it hasn't changed in five years."

But the Independent Women's Forum last year released its own analysis of the differences in pay between men and women. "Occupation, seniority, absenteeism, and intermittent work-force participation are all critical variables in accounting for pay disparities," the IWF found. "In other words, those who assume that discrimination is solely to blame for wage differences are drawing unsubstantiated conclusions."

The IWF found that "over time, women's wages have been steadily rising relative to men's wages" and "that, among people ages twenty-seven to thirty-three who have never had a child, women's earnings are close to 98 percent of men's." The study quotes economist June O'Neil: "When earnings comparisons are restricted to men and women more similar in their experience and life situations, the measured earnings differentials are typically quite small."

By ignoring the IWF's points, Couric and Jennings failed to give the full picture of women's pay.


Rich Noyes


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