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VICTOR JOECKS: Mother’s Day is responsible for gender pay gap

Updated May 11, 2019 - 9:59 pm

If you want to get rid of the gender pay gap, you need to eliminate Mother’s Day — and what it represents.

Liberals frequently assert that women earn less than men for doing the same work. “Women on average make just 80 cents for every dollar a man is paid,” Bernie Sanders tweeted last month. “Equal pay for equal work is an issue of basic justice.”

Democrats and the media — but I repeat myself — take this as proof that sexism is widespread in modern America. Never mind that Congress banned gender-based wage discrimination in 1963.

A deeper dive into the numbers shows the “80 cents for every dollar” is derived by comparing apples to oranges. That statistic involves the median wage of full-time work for men and women. Men, as a group, earned $973 a week in 2018. Women, as a group, earned $789 a week. That’s a 19 percent difference.

Men and women, however, don’t all work the same jobs. Men are more likely to major in the highest-paying degree fields, such as petroleum engineering. Women are more likely to major in the lowest-paying degree fields, such as social work. Men are overrepresented in dangerous jobs, which offer a wage premium. Women are more likely to work in nonprofits.

Adjust for these factors and the gender-pay gap shrinks — or even reverses. A 2016 study by Hired found that women with fewer than two years of experience received higher-paying job offers than comparable men.

As young women grow older, many will decide they don’t want to maximize their career. They want children, and they want to spend time with their children. More than 94 percent of fathers with a child under 3 were working or looking for work in 2016. That compares to just 62 percent of similar mothers.

It isn’t the patriarchy forcing moms to work less than dads. It’s their own individual preferences.

A 2013 Pew Research Center poll found that just 32 percent of mothers wanted to work full-time. Part-time was the preference of 47 percent of mothers, and 20 percent didn’t want to work at all. Among married mothers, just 23 percent thought working full-time was ideal.

These decisions often permanently reduce a woman’s earning power. A study by Payscale found that not working for a year resulted in an average 7 percent pay reduction. Women are “five times more likely than men to take breaks from working for child rearing,” the study found.

The evidence is overwhelming. Motherhood is bad for the pocketbook. But isn’t it ironic that the same people who decry capitalistic greed act as if a mother’s value is determined by how much she earns?

Moms work less because they know money can’t replace their love. Research shows that the secure attachment of an infant to his primary caretaker, usually his mom, helps properly develop the nervous system. That attachment stimulates the brain, preparing a child to learn, trust and care for others. That’s just one of thousands of times a child will benefit from his mother’s love.

To all the moms reading this: Our thanks can’t repay you, but we hope our love and appreciation is worth the many sacrifices you made along the way. Happy Mother’s Day.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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