Society and Culture

Paycheck Fairness Act Will Fatten Paychecks for Trial Lawyers, Not Women

careerwomenIn 2009, the Consad Research Corporation conducted a comprehensive study on the gender wage gap for the Department of Labor, and produced a 95-page report titled “An Analysis of the Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women.” This is from the report’s foreword:

There are observable differences in the attributes of men and women that account for most of the gender wage gap. These variables include:

1. A greater percentage of women than men tend to work part-time.

2. A greater percentage of women than men tend to leave the labor force for child birth, child care and elder care.

3. Women, especially working mothers, tend to value “family friendly” workplace policies more than men.

4. Women may value non-wage benefits more than men do, and as a result prefer to take a greater portion of their compensation in the form of health insurance and other fringe benefits.

The study concludes that “the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.”

And yet the Senate will vote this week on “The Paycheck Fairness Act,” which according to the American Association of University Women is a critical piece of legislation that “can help create a climate where pay discrimination is not tolerated, and give the new administration the enforcement tools it needs to make real progress on pay equity.”

But the government’s own report by the Department of Labor concludes that there is no gender wage gap or pay discrimination once all relevant variables that impact wages are considered. And another recent study found that single, childless women between the ages of 22 and 30 out-earn their male counterparts by as much as 21 percent in large cities, and by 8 percent on average in urban areas, largely because young women are better educated than young men. This is more evidence that labor markets operate efficiently and discrimination against women has largely been eliminated by competitive market forces and the enforcement of existing laws by federal agencies, and additional federal antidiscrimination legislation is therefore unnecessary.

The most recent economic research suggests that paycheck fairness is already a reality, and therefore women’s pay won’t change much if the “Paycheck Fairness Act” passes. There is, however, one group whose paychecks might get a lot fatter if new legislation goes into effect: trial lawyers, an important point made by June O’Neill in the Wall Street Journal (“this new legislation would simply provide a feast for lawyers”), AEI’s Christina Hoff Sommers recently in the New York Times, and last week by the Chicago Tribune.

Image by Darin McClure.

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