Thursday, May 15, 2014

Poor Prioritization

Sent yesterday to NPR concerning this story.
Dear Ms. Michel Martin,
 I was disappointed when I heard your story today concerning the connection between the career of Barbara Walters and the kidnapped Nigerian girls. Rather than emphasizing the large gap in opportunity that exists between people in different countries, you focused on the tenuous gender income gap within the United States.
 As you briefly acknowledged, the comparison is complex and there are many logical reasons why women earn less. But moments later, you casually ignored that complexity and claimed a woman earns less simply because she's a women. But women earn less because of the choices they tend to make, not simply because of their gender.
 When you control for all the complexities--women tend to take more time off, they tend to pursue low-paying fields, they tend to work less dangerous jobs, etc.--the pay gap all but disappears. These complexities are at the heart of the conversation. To brush them off as you did is disappointing and distracts from more important issues.
 Attention is a scarce resource. Sexism, while terrible and still in place in modern day America, is not the most crucial issue of the day. It is, thankfully, rarer now than it was decades ago when Walters began her career. Equating the pay gap of today to the rampant anti-women terrorism in Nigeria does a great disservice. There are much more important lessons to draw from the tragic story of the kidnapped Nigerian girls.
David Youngberg
Asst. Professor of Economics
Montgomery College


Anonymous said...

Just to nitpick on the "all but disappears" comment. The oft-mentioned 77/cent figure is exaggerated, but the data on exactly how large the gap might be is at best conflicting. Even conservative estimates put it at around 5%, which at the median US salary will amount to over two YEARS of lost wages. It's certainly wrong to equate the tragedy in Nigeria with the struggles of American women, but let's not diminish how large of a problem it still is in the US.

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