Saturday, January 28, 2006

A Very Final Announcement on the Gender Gap in Wages Series

It is now permanently available for clicking on my address at the top of this blog. You can also see some of my embroideries at that site. If you click F5 the embroidery shown on the frontpage changes to another one. Neat, eh?

Wives as Property, Wives as Hostages to Love?

According to the ABC News:

The U.S. Army in Iraq has at least twice seized and jailed the wives of suspected insurgents in hopes of "leveraging" their husbands into surrender, U.S. military documents show.

In one case, a secretive task force locked up the young mother of a nursing baby, a U.S. intelligence officer reported. In the case of a second detainee, one American colonel suggested to another that they catch her husband by tacking a note to the family's door telling him "to come get his wife."

The issue of female detentions in Iraq has taken on a higher profile since kidnappers seized American journalist Jill Carroll on Jan. 7 and threatened to kill her unless all Iraqi women detainees are freed.

This is unethical. We shouldn't punish the family members of someone we suspect of a crime. It is also a highly inflammatory strategy in a country where the honor of a family is regarded as lodged in its women. It's stupid, in short.

But it's also a possibly feminist topic for discussion. Possibly, because I can imagine the U.S. intelligence doing the same to male family members of someone they suspect of being an insurgent or a terrorist. Still, doing it to the women strikes a different tone, because of the women-as-honor concept I mentioned and because many still view women as the property of their families or their husbands and fathers. Or as an appendix to the men, something that is seen as belonging to them, something that is not seen as a separate individual person.

Whatever your opinion on the feminist contents of this topic might be, it certainly is true that kidnapping wives in Iraq is an extremely bad policy if we want the American ideals of fairness and democracy and all that shit respected all over the world.

Saturday Nothings and Wingut Framings

More of a writing exercise than a real post, because I had these tremendous deep thought experiences last night and I didn't write them down and now I can't remember them. They were really good ideas about the American political system and how to fix it. But they are gone the way so many other things have: the Great American Novel, what to plant in the northeastern corner of my garden, how to reuse those jeans I love which have large holes in dangerous places. Where do ideas go when you don't pay attention to them? Do they sulk and hide, just to come back one day, or are they gone for good, to be given to someone else who does pay attention?

This has been a sad week in politics, for me at least, because it has shown the debased nature of so many political pundits. They have been bought, lock-stock-and-barrel, by the wingnuts, and we still hear all the screaming about the liberal media. Now I have to listen to Canadian and English news every day just to know what might be happening.

I have also learned that the wingnut framing of liberals as angry has taken hold. This is only possible in a faith-based world where Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are courteous old-timers who have tea with tiny cucumber sandwiches and gently whisper compliments to each other. We are uncouth and mean-spirited, but joking about giving Justice Stephens rat-poison is the new black.

Then there is the new framing of all of us liberals in the blogs: we are the radical fringe extremists, the bothersome fleas biting at the butts of the Democratic establishment. Poor Democrats, as they must cope with us who don't matter at the same time as coping with the wingnuts who do matter. See the touch of the conservatives in all this? One base is all-important: the wingnuts; the other base is nutters, to be ignored.

These frames are dangerous. I am not a radical extremist, and neither are 99% of the other lefty bloggers on the net. But soon we are all going to cower in fear when we look in the mirror and see those fangs and those red eyes.

The Truth, The Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth

The title makes little sense. Neither does what it refers to: the way prominent pundits keep arguing that the Abramoff scandal is bipartisan. The American Prospect commissioned a study of the actual Indian tribes donations to Democrats and Republicans, both before they had Abramoff as their lobbyist, and after. The study also compared the donations of Indian tribes who did not employ Abramoff with the donations of those who did. The conclusion of the analysis was this:

"If you're going to make the case that this is a bipartisan scandal, you have to really stretch the imagination," says Morris. "Most individual tribes were predominantly Democratic givers through the last decade. Only Abramoff's clients switched dramatically from largely Democratic to overwhelmingly Republican donors, and that happened only after he got his hands on them."

Yet this is what we heard just yesterday from a mainstream media pundit:

From the January 27 edition of NBC's Today:

LAUER: Howard Dean was on this program yesterday and asserted, basically, that it is a Republican scandal. Let me play you a clip.

DEAN [video clip]: It is a Republican-financed scandal. Not one dime of money from Jack Abramoff ever went to any Democrat. Not one dime.

LAUER: Katie pressed him on that, and then we -- we did some research. We went to the Center for Responsive Politics and we found out that, technically speaking, Howard Dean may be correct. But here's what we found: that 66 percent of the money in this situation went to Republicans, but 34 percent of the money -- not from Abramoff, but from his associates and clients -- went to Democrats.

"Technically correct"! Indian tribes have donated money to the Democratic party for years. Then Abramoff enters the picture, and the tribes which employ him start largely donating money to the Republican party, though they still give something to the Democrats, too. And this is a bipartisan scandal? Except in the "technically correct sense"? I need to bang my head against the garage wall. Excuse me for a moment.

Then there is the real scandal of this whole scandal: That we are all discussing calmly how much influence money can buy in a system that is supposed to be a democracy.

Friday, January 27, 2006

A Deep Thought for the Day

How many members of Opus Dei do we need on the Supreme Court of the United States?

Your Illiberal Media in Action

Go to Oliver Willis and click on the video concerning CNN's newscast on John Kerry. It is not exactly neutral and unbiased. For those of you who can't see the video, the woman states that John Kerry flew home from "an exclusive Swiss resort" for a last-ditch attempt at a filibuster. The screen is divided, and the other side has a picture of John Kerry with the words "Gulfstream Liberal". This is probably a wingnut joke on "Limousine Liberal" !!!!!!

To check what Kerry might be doing at this "exclusive Swiss resort" note this:

The Massachusetts senator was speaking on the margins of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

To see what the World Economic Forum is, go here.

I cannot find the contact information for the CNN ombudsman, if they even have one.

Friday Puppy Blogging

We need some cute this week. It has been exhausting and even downheartening. So I'm happy to present you with teh cute: A nice Wheaten terrier puppy. Those black markings fade after a while.

On Rat Poisons

Ann Coulter has joked about the need to give Justice Stephens some rat poison:

Coulter had told the Philander Smith College audience Thursday that more conservative justices were needed on the Supreme Court to change the current law on abortion. Stevens is one of the court's most liberal members.

"We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee," Coulter said. "That's just a joke, for you in the media."

Have you noticed that when liberals get angry, as happened in the Washington Post blog comments scandal, some media pundits waste no time getting to the lamentations about the incivility of the left's discourse, but comments by Ann Coulter are not incivil. They are just... jokes.

They don't make her sound like terrorists, noooh. Only lefties like Michael Moore and John Kerry sound like terrorists. Here is Rush Limbaugh on the topic of Osama bin Laden's latest tape:

Wait a minute, who's translating who, there? Sounds like Ted Kennedy was telling bin Laden what to say.

Now, to prove my point, folks, 'cause I've been getting some wide-eyed stares from Snerdley, today, when I say, "The Democrats look at, to me -- to me -- they look to Bush as the enemy." They don't see bin Laden as the enemy. They see Bush as the enemy.

Well, bin Laden and the Democrats sound similar, would you not agree? What is so outrageous about that? It's not -- you know what? It's not outrageous. You just can't believe I'm actually saying it.

But joking about murdering a Supreme Court Justice is just good clean fun and not at all treasonous.

The Vegan Danger to America

This article talks about FBI surveillance of a vegan protest outside a store that sells hams. The ACLU of Georgia has obtained copies of the government files on one vegan, Caitlin Childs:

For example, more than two dozen government surveillance photographs show 22-year-old Caitlin Childs of Atlanta, a strict vegetarian, and other vegans picketing against meat eating, in December 2003. They staged their protest outside a HoneyBaked Ham store on Buford Highway in DeKalb County.

An undercover DeKalb County Homeland Security detective was assigned to conduct surveillance of the protest and the protestors, and take the photographs. The detective arrested Childs and another protester after he saw Childs approach him and write down, on a piece of paper, the license plate number of his unmarked government car.

The detective also wrote that Childs was "hostile, uncooperative and boisterous toward the officers." Those vegans!

Childs's picture was also in the files. Here she is protesting the ham store:

Don't you sleep safer now that you know what the government does to protect us?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Santorum in the Memory Hole...

Via Eschaton, I hear that Rick Santorum, that holy warrior from Pennsylvania, is having a sore tummy or something else that makes him pretend he isn't a holy warrior, after all. Like recently he denied that the K Street Project exists at all:

But, in interviews with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he has said those discussions -- which he previously referred to as "the K Street meetings" -- are merely to ensure Republicans are putting forward good candidates for the jobs.

As if that weren't enough to make you question the veracity of Santorum's latest denials, here's what he told the Post-Gazette about the K Street project back in November:

"The K Street project is purely to make sure we have qualified applicants for positions that are in town," Mr. Santorum said. "From my perspective, it's a good government thing."

This is confusing. Because in this 2003 article Santorum is cited as the major power behind the K Street Project:

When presidents pick someone to fill a job in the government, it's typically a very public affair. The White House circulates press releases and background materials. Congress holds a hearing, where some members will pepper the nominee with questions and others will shower him or her with praise. If the person in question is controversial or up for an important position, they'll rate a profile or two in the papers. But there's one confirmation hearing you won't hear much about. It's convened every Tuesday morning by Rick Santorum, the junior senator from Pennsylvania, in the privacy of a Capitol Hill conference room, for a handpicked group of two dozen or so Republican lobbyists. Occasionally, one or two other senators or a representative from the White House will attend. Democrats are not invited, and neither is the press.

The chief purpose of these gatherings is to discuss jobs--specifically, the top one or two positions at the biggest and most important industry trade associations and corporate offices centered around Washington's K Street, a canyon of nondescript office buildings a few blocks north of the White House that is to influence-peddling what Wall Street is to finance. In the past, those people were about as likely to be Democrats as Republicans, a practice that ensured K Street firms would have clout no matter which party was in power. But beginning with the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, and accelerating in 2001, when George W. Bush became president, the GOP has made a determined effort to undermine the bipartisan complexion of K Street. And Santorum's Tuesday meetings are a crucial part of that effort. Every week, the lobbyists present pass around a list of the jobs available and discuss whom to support. Santorum's responsibility is to make sure each one is filled by a loyal Republican--a senator's chief of staff, for instance, or a top White House aide, or another lobbyist whose reliability has been demonstrated. After Santorum settles on a candidate, the lobbyists present make sure it is known whom the Republican leadership favors. "The underlying theme was [to] place Republicans in key positions on K Street. Everybody taking part was a Republican and understood that that was the purpose of what we were doing," says Rod Chandler, a retired congressman and lobbyist who has participated in the Santorum meetings. "It's been a very successful effort."

Poor Ricky. He's suffering from a Memory Hole syndrome.

Filibustering Alito

I believe that the Democrats should filibuster Alito. There are arguments opposing filibustering which have some general merit, especially the one thistle mentioned in earlier comments about the problems we might build for the future if we filibuster people who have a paper trail. This encourages nominees with no paper trail.

The other argument against filibustering I keep hearing has to do with civility. Well, the wingnuts have deserted the land of civility a long time ago, and we have been there all alone, talking to shadows. If one is bothered by civility, one can filibuster politely.

Then there is the argument about Alito not mattering very much as he is only one judge and there are still some non-wingnut judges on the bench and Alito won't change anything. So goes the incremental argument for boiling the frog, too. Keep heating the water slowly, slowly, and the frog never notices it gets boiled.

So on balance I believe in filibustering. Because I'm not at all sure that we will ever get a change to experience what might happen to a Democratic nominee if we let the Republican power grap to be complete. You may from now on call me the goddess of tinfoil. I don't care. Indeed, I will carry my helmet with pride.

I don't see what most Democrats have to lose from going along with a filibuster. It's not as if wingnuts will decide to vote for them just because they didn't filibuster.

There are no links in this post because it is an expression of my own personal opinion. If you agree with my opinion, contact your Senators.

On the Palestinian Elections

Moonbotica is an English blogger. Her Palestinian friend borrowed her blog to tell about how the elections went:

finally hamas won and that is what i guessed would happen , fatteh is as an old shoe now , hamas will try to make palestine as an islamic country , the situation will be so bad next days , israel refused hamas and USA too, then who voted hamas will know he was mistake , hamas will not develop the palestin,s cities as people think , who vote hamas believe that hamas is fair , they dont know that it will make our life as hell , we will dont have our freedom on the street and they will try to force girls to wear veil ( new afghanistan in middle east) , then it will be big catastrophe,

I predict that within a month Hamas will issue some laws that restrict women's rights. It's an odd thing how the more authoritarian regimes always focus on the control of women. Not odd, really, I was just trying to be sarcastic. The control of women guarantees the control of the next generation so it's all good for the power-hungry.

Those who voted for Hamas probably didn't vote for the control of women, on the whole. The vote was as much a protest against the corruption of Fatah or a vote for change. But what will change is most likely not what the people are hoping for. An Islamic state may be in the books.

Well, I will try to stay optimistic.

Thank Goddess for the Paywall at the NYT

It saves lots of innocent people from reading David Brooks. He is now telling us that the Democrats have failed because such a small proportion of people are poor and the rest don't care about economic policies at all. What they care about is Values, and the wingnuts do them so much better:

Conservatives, especially evangelicals, have had free rein to offer their own recipe for social renewal: churches that restrain male selfishness, decency standards that check hedonism, social norms that discourage childbearing outside wedlock.

Funny that he doesn't point out how the evangelicals plan to restrict us womenfolk. It's a much larger share of their agenda than restricting male selfishness.

And the idea that the wingnuts are the ones with Values looks truly sick when you read what Bob Herbert* has to say. And yes, he should not be behind the wall:

Reality has been dealt a stunning blow by Mr. Bush. The administration's high-handedness with the Katrina investigators comes at the same time as disclosures showing that the White House was warned in the hours just before the hurricane hit New Orleans that it might well cause catastrophic flooding and the breaching of the city's levees.

That was early on the morning of last Aug. 29. On Sept. 1, with the city all but completely underwater, the president went on television and blithely declared, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."

This guy is something. Remember his "Top Gun" moment aboard the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln? And his famous taunt — "Bring 'em on" — to the insurgents in Iraq? His breathtaking arrogance is exceeded only by his incompetence. And that's the real problem. That's where you'll find the mind-boggling destructiveness of this regime, in its incompetence.

Fantasy may be in fashion. Reality may have been shoved into the shadows on Mr. Bush's watch. But the plain truth is that he is the worst president in memory, and one of the worst of all time. Many thousands of people — men, women and children — have died unnecessarily (and thousands more are suffering) because of his misguided and mishandled policies.

The Republicans are running a populist strategy to garner the votes that will maintain them in power for their real base which is the monied folks. The populist strategies almost always consist of finding the nasty emotion that can be generalized enough to start a movement, the "them-against-us" kind of trigger. It's often something about blacks exploiting the country, though in recent years it has been about uppity women destroying the good old America and about pagans destroying Christmas, and it is certainly going to be about immigrants. All groups that can be fairly safely labeled as "them" rather than as "us". And no, the Democrats are not allowed to use the same trick to point out how the "them" is really those guys with money, the ones that look like militant earthworms (coughKarlRovecough). Because that would be class warfare and only the rich can wage that.

The liberals do have values, and very good values they are: fairness, justice, concern for the others. Brooks is setting up strawmen in his post by stating that the liberals don't have values, and he demeans the concept of values by making them match the Republican framing. Notice how coercive his values are?

But I must admit that it's brave of him to release this poorly thought-out post on values right at the cusp of the Abramoff scandal.
*I had Frank Rich here earlier. Don't know why. Thanks to Nancy for the correction.

Final Offering

To remind you to read or to copy my series on the gender gap in earnings. I toiled over it and so should someone else... Here are the links


Empirical Evidence

Addressing Wingnut Distortions

Now and Then


Bush not concerned about Bin Laden.

Bush: "So I don't know where he is. You know, I just don't spend that much time on him. … And, again, I don't know where he is. I — I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him."


"When he says he's going to hurt the American people again, or try to, he means it," Bush told reporters after visiting the top-secret National Security Agency where the surveillance program is based. "I take it seriously, and the people of NSA take it seriously."


In June, 2002, Republican Sen. Michael DeWine of Ohio introduced legislation (S. 2659) which would have eliminated the exact barrier to FISA which Gen. Hayden yesterday said is what necessitated the Administration bypassing FISA. Specifically, DeWine's legislation proposed:

to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to modify the standard of proof for issuance of orders regarding non-United States persons from probable cause to reasonable suspicion. . . .

In other words, DeWine's bill, had it become law, would have eliminated the "probable cause" barrier (at least for non-U.S. persons) which the Administration is now pointing to as the reason why it had to circumvent FISA.


REPORTER: General Hayden, the FISA law says that the N.S.A. can do intercepts, as long as you go to the court within 72 hours to get a warrant. I understood you to say that you are aggressively using FISA, but selectively doing so. Why are you not able to go to FISA, as the law requires, in all cases? And if the law is outdated, why haven't you asked Congress to update it?

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: If FISA worked just as well, why wouldn't I use FISA? To save typing? No. There is an operational impact here. And I have two -- two paths in front of me, both of them lawful: one, FISA; one, the President's authorization. And we go down this path because our operational judgment is: It is much more effective. So we do it for that reason. I think I got -- I think I've covered all the ones you raised.

The first two from hadenough on Eschaton threads.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

From My Mailbag

There is a new blog for feminist law professors. Check it out.

Alternet has started a new blog on the way wingnuts frame the public debate in order to make it impossible for us to do anything but play defence. Lakoff stuff. I find this an important idea to tackle, mostly because I have caught myself thinking about so many problems using the wingnut frame, even when it is blatantly stupid. We need to learn to play the media better, and this new blog could help.

WAM: Women, Action and the Media, is preparing for its third annual conference. I went to the first two and had a great time. They have started taking registrations. You can find out more and register here.

I have been interviewed at bloggasm. They have many other fascinating blogger interviews but that one is the most fascinating...

And in a much more serious vein, John Gorenfeld (our expert on the Reverend Moon) writes about some sick Gilead stuff that is happening to teenagers right now.

Blogger Going Down...

Most likely just for a few hours but it's a good idea to have something posted before.

Here is a silly poem BG sent me by e-mail:

Overheard from Congressman Seuss

That Abramoff!

That Abramoff!

I do not like that Abramoff!

"Would you like to play some golf?"

I do not want to play some golf.

I do not want to, Abramoff.

"We could fly you there for free.

Off to Scotland, by the sea."

I do not want to fly for free.

I don't like Scotland by the sea.

I do not want to play some golf.

I do not want to, Abramoff.

"Would you, could you, take this bribe?

Could you, would you, for the tribe?"

I would not, could not, take this bribe.

I could not, would not, for the tribe.

"If we strong-armed corporations

Into giving you donations?

They'd be funneled to your PAC.

Would you then cut us some slack?"

I would not, could not, cut you slack.

I do not care about my PAC.

I do not want to play some golf.

I do not want to, Abramoff.

"A plane! A plane! A plane! A plane!

Would you, could you, for a plane?"

I could not, would not, for a plane.

Not for a bribe, not for the tribe.

Not for donations from corporations.

Not for my PAC, not for some slack.

Not from any schmoe named Jack.

"Would you help us buy some ships

Perfect for quick gambling trips?

Talk to people in the know

For a little quid pro quo?

Oh come now, don't be a snob.

Let us give your wife a job."

I will not help you buy some ships.

I do not wish for gambling trips.

My wife does not need a job

Even if she is a snob.

We do not like bribes, can't you see?

Why won't you just let me be?

"You do not like bribes, so you say.

Try them, try them, and you may.

Try them and you may, I say."

Jack. If you will let me be

I will try them, then you'll see.

Say.... I do like playing golf!

I like it, I do, Abramoff!

I do like Scotland by the sea.

It's such a thrilling place to be!

And I will take this bribe.

And I will help the tribe.

And I will take donations

From big corporations.

And I will help you buy some ships.

And I will take quick gambling trips.

Say, I'll give anyone the shaft

As long as it involves some graft!

I do so like playing golf!

Thank you! Thank you,


Another Step Towards Gilead?

The reference is to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale which describes a future dysthopia where religious fundamentalists rule as dictators. Such a dictatorship didn't seem possible in the United States because of the law against using the military for purely domestic purposes and because of the fact that each state has its own local police force. Now this seems to be changing. From Talk Left, it appears that the Patriot Act will contain a proposal to establish a federal police force:

A permanent police force, to be known as the 'United States Secret Service Uniformed Division,'" empowered to "make arrests without warrant for any offense against the United States committed in their presence" ... "or for any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed or is committing such felony."

I like that "without warrant" bit. So carefree and decisive.

The Secret Administration

Listen to this:

The Bush administration, citing the confidentiality of executive branch communications, said Tuesday that it did not plan to turn over certain documents about Hurricane Katrina or make senior White House officials available for sworn testimony before two Congressional committees investigating the storm response.


The White House's stance on storm-related documents, along with slow or incomplete responses by other agencies, threatens to undermine efforts to identify what went wrong, Democrats on the committees said Tuesday.

"There has been a near total lack of cooperation that has made it impossible, in my opinion, for us to do the thorough investigation that we have a responsibility to do," Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, said at Tuesday's hearing of the Senate committee investigating the response. His spokeswoman said he would ask for a subpoena for documents and testimony if the White House did not comply.

In response to questions later from a reporter, the deputy White House spokesman, Trent Duffy, said the administration had declined requests to provide testimony by Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff; Mr. Card's deputy, Joe Hagin; Frances Fragos Townsend, the domestic security adviser; and her deputy, Ken Rapuano.

Mr. Duffy said the administration had also declined to provide storm-related e-mail correspondence and other communications involving White House staff members. Mr. Rapuano has given briefings to the committees, but the sessions were closed to the public and were not considered formal testimony.

The administration wants its communications to be secret but wants to spy on all the rest of us. Am I getting this right? Sheesh. And the despairing people in New Orleans don't matter one whit.

The Gender Gap. Part III: Addressing the Wingnuts

You should read the first two parts of this series first, to fully appreciate what I write here. The theory post is here and the empirical evidence post is here.

To begin with, an admission: The gender wage gap has indeed been misused by some feminists and some on the political left, to imply that the total difference in average earnings between men and women is evidence of direct wage discrimination of the type where women are not paid the same for exactly the same work as the one men do. I'm sure that some of the misuse is because this is not an easy topic to understand. Many right-wing and anti-feminist commenters in the field make the exact opposite mistake by arguing that NONE of the observed gap is due to discrimination of any kind.

The facts are in the middle, as I have mentioned in the second part of this series. But discrimination does exist, and the only relevant type of discrimination is not the one where women are paid unequally for the same work. Even this type of discrimination occurs, and not all of it gets fixed by the court system because we tend not to know what others earn at work.

The anti-feminist wingnut framing choices in discussing the gender gap in wages are interesting. The basic emotional trick is to turn the discussion to two issues: That believing in the existence of discrimination makes you into a whiny victim, and that such a focus demeans the great achievements of women: that they have narrowed the gap since 1950. Here are examples of both emotional strategies:

"These dependency divas are once again using misleading statistics to convince women they are victims in order to advance their big government agenda," says Carrie Lukas, director of policy at IWF.

The gender wage gap is a manufactured crisis borne of interest group politics, not a reflection of the reality of women's lives. The arguments advanced by feminist groups on Equal Pay Day are deliberately misleading. Worse, their underlying assumption is that women are incapable of making free and informed decisions about their lives-or for standing up for their right to fair compensation. I for one have more faith in the female sex. I know that we will continue to succeed-but on our own terms.


Are women victims? Or can they hold their own in the workplace? Women's inequality in society is a standard refrain in the popular media and thus in the conventional wisdom. The purveyors of that point of view assume that women are systematically discriminated against on all levels of society, especially in the workplace, and that this discrimination has kept them from reaching equality with men. But the facts show otherwise.

These are all selected from the writings of the wonderfully cheerful gals who belong to the Independent Women's Forum (IWF), a right-wing site that fights feminism. It is funded by Richard Schaife, by the way, which makes the "independent" part of the group's name a little hilarious. These ladies do most of the heavy lifting in anything political that touches women's rights, and thus most of my examples in this post comes from them. They love to use Warren Farrell as an expert! Farrell's opinions on issues concerning women include the argument that the contraceptive pill destroyed men's lives completely as in the past the pregnant women needed men to do stuff and now they don't. Farrell also believes that women lead privileged lives compared to men but he doesn't want to change anything. Mindboggling.

The emotional bag of trickery the IWF uses is not limited to victim-blaming and the exhortation for women to pull themselves up by their brastraps. It also includes a reverse type of victim blaming: Women are blamed for the wage gap because the IWF sees everything as a consequence of women's free choices. Even some women perhaps not in the IWF do this. Here is a happy-fuzzy example:

Women may never achieve parity with men in the workplace, but that is not bad news for women. Some will choose not to work, while others will set their sights to lead the top corporations in America. The majority of women will fall somewhere in between

Replace "women" with "blacks" in that sentence and see how it sounds then.

So much for the emotional approach the wingnuts and their henchwomen take. What they fear is government intervention in the markets, of course, and as most of them view markets almost as highly as they view the Christian god this fear galvanizes them to lie, to distort and to misinform. The common ways to misinform are the following:

1. Omission of any evidence that shows discrimination exists.

2. Emphasis on women's free "choice" as the "real" explanation for the gender gap.

3. Emphasis on "free" markets as incompatible with sex discrimination.

4. Biased interpretations of studies which look at a narrow section of workers.

The most common of these is the first one, omitting any information on labor market discrimination, or even pretending that nondiscriminatory reasons have accounted for ALL of the gender gap in earnings. Here are some examples with Echidne's commentary:

The reality is that, when considering men and women with similar fields of study, educational attainment, and continuous time spent in the workforce, the wage gap disappears. This is true for some women in high-paying "male" fields such as engineering, chemistry, and computer science.

The reality is no such thing. When we standardize for all known nondiscriminatory reasons why women might earn less, on average, we still find an unexplained remaining gender gap in wages, in study after study. To argue otherwise is untrue. There are fields which women's earnings are a much higher proportion of men's earnings than in other fields, true, and there are probably also fields where discrimination is nonexistent. But such cases are exceptions to the general rule. Consider the study I discussed in Part II of this series, one which used a very large sample of women and men from all walks of life, one that was commissioned by the Bush administration, one which standardized for marital status, for the number of children, for the age of the youngest child, for being a part-time worker and for the occupations people choose, presumably at least partly for their flexibility or safety or other desirable characteristics, we still could only account for a little more than one half of the initial difference in average earnings!

Note also that if we standardize for everything the ladies of the IWF want to see standardized, including extremely detailed occupational choice, the evaluations from bosses, (perhaps even the color of the hairbands women use) and so on, we are also going to hold discrimination constant, if it works through what the boss writes about female and male workers or if women are steered into certain jobs by the school system, parents and the firms themselves.

Here is another common message from the IWF:

Feminists have ignored how women's lives and goals differ from men's. In doing so they have overlooked the fact that it women's life choices -- not sex discrimination -- are responsible for the infamous wage gap.

The idea of the wage gap between men and women being the result of free "choices" by women (and men?) is the most common of all right-wing arguments. As I wrote earlier in this series, it is very difficult to measure "choice" in empirical research. But even if it was choice that caused women to focus more on household responsibilities the studies that do control for the variables that might reflect such choice still find a large chunk of the gender gap remaining. To imply that the "choice" has somehow made all further discussion unnecessary is just blatant lying. Or at least reflects some severe confusion of the concepts of "opinion" and "fact".

The anti-feminist or wingnut writings never mention the studies (such as the audit studies I mentioned in Part II of this series) which demonstrate that discrimination still exists. Some quickly glance through the issue by quickly typing "of course discrimination exists but", while some others argue that courts are there to take care of any discrimination that still lingers. Alito might remove that remedy, of course, because the federal laws depend on an interpretation of the Commerce Clause which Alito might not like. Also, remember the difficulty of finding out whether you actually make the same as your coworkers in the same job.

A slightly more sophisticated wingnut strategy is to drag out the idea of markets as a savior for women who might be discriminated against. Here is a good example of this one:

I was -- I hate to admit -- blinded by ideology. The market is a consummately rational institution. The logic of rational self-interest precludes the sort of bias belief in which fuels feminism. If you hire men over more-qualified women, simply because you think more highly of men or want to keep women down, you won't last long in commerce. You'll be put out of business -- the market's distinctive form of punishment -- by those who hire on the basis of ability. A rational firm ignores irrelevant considerations in its decisions, including its hiring decisions.

It's a recovering male feminist who makes the confession here. His reference is to the theory I discussed in Part I of this series, the one about employer discrimination against women. In that model nobody else discriminates against women, not coworkers, not consumers, only the owners or managers of firms. In that world everybody can spot, instantly, who is a productive worker. There are no information problems at all, no prejudice, no using the average characteristics of all women in place of the unknown true characteristics of the individual woman you consider hiring. And existing bigot firms don't have any way of stopping the entry of new brave nondiscriminators who would snap up all those underpaid women.

As I also discussed in Part I, it is even possible that the markets might punish a firm which does not discriminate. It won't matter very much if your wage costs are lowered by hiring all women to be your house painters, if prejudiced customers refuse your bids just because you are employing women. Or, as I mentioned in the first part of the series, think about what might happen to a firm which employs women in a Taliban-type economy.

In the search for links I came across the Wikipedia entry on the gender gap in wages. A wingnut slipped in and wrote the whole thing. It's actually a masterpiece of obfuscation, and you should read it for that reason. Here are some excerpts:

However, legislation has meant that women's wages hold up quite well to men's wages when comparing specific job categories. Among adults working between one and 34 hours a week, women's earnings are 115 percent of men's. Among part-time workers who have never married, and who thus confront fewer outside factors likely to affect earnings, women earn slightly more than men. These statistics suggest that skill level, tenure and working hours are influential factors in how gender determines wages.

"Among adults working between one and 34 hours a week, women's earnings are 115 percent of men's." Do you think that this fascinating finding about part-timers, the vast majority of whom are women, somehow cancels out the gender gap in earnings? Especially as the post gives us no way of knowing if all the nondiscriminatory factors have been controlled for here? For example, what if women who work part-time have more education and experience than men who work part-time? I don't know if this is the case, but the Wikipedia post doesn't tell us anything about this, either. Do you think that this particular snippet is so important that it should be included in such a short Wikipedia post? Perhaps.

Then the conclusions:

Women's work-life patterns and their occupational preferences are significant factors in determining wages. Rather than being "funneled" into low-wage, low-prestige and part-time positions, women often choose these occupations because of the flexibility they offer. After adjusting for these factors, scholars find that the difference between men's and women's earnings is very narrow.

"Rather than being "funneled" into low-wage etc. positions, women often choose these". How does the writer know this? When there is no way of really finding out? And note the nice way of concluding that the residual unexplained wage difference is "very narrow". Say, twenty percent?

The most sophisticated of the wingnut/anti-feminists strategies is to cite those studies which find a very small unexplained wage residual after all the nondiscriminatory factors are added. A favorite economist to use for these purposes is June O'Neill. I googled her today quite extensively, and find her writings have appeared in places such as the Manhattan Institute. This suggests to me that her political alliance is with the right. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it does make me look for the devices of the right in the way she interprets her research.

O'Neill's recent approach to analyzing the gender wage gap has not been so much in taking a random sample of men and women who work and then evaluating the results by using statistical methods to control for nondiscriminatory variables (though she does this, too), but to focus on one value of the standardized variables and then to look at men and women who have that one value. She does this with age.

The idea is to compare young workers, or workers who have only recently entered the labor market. The benefit of doing this is that these workers are unlikely to have family obligations yet, and many of them are not even married. The disadvantage has to do with them being young workers, and I will talk about that later a little more. But here is a summary of O'Neill's research into this field:

When women behave in the workplace as men do, the wage gap between them is small. June O'Neill, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, found that among people ages 27 to 33 who have never had a child, women's earnings approach 98 percent of men's. Women who hold positions and have skills and experience similar to those of men face wage disparities of less than 10 percent, and many are within a couple of points. Claims of unequal pay almost always involve comparing apples and oranges.

As you will know by now (if you have read the first two parts of this series), we are not comparing apples and oranges when we hold the values of nondiscriminatory determinants of wages constant. We may have the problem of omitted variables, but O'Neill's approach has a different problem: she is comparing very young apples to very young apples.

Why would this be a problem? The reason is this: First, think of an employer who wants to discriminate against women, but needs to hire workers for a firm. Women apply for the jobs and they are qualified for the jobs. If this employer refuses to hire any of them, he or she might soon find a law suit or a nasty audit study done on the firm, because Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bans hiring discrimination on the basis of sex. So the bigoted employer must hire some of these women. Now, that is terrible, you might think. Couldn't this poor soul at least pay the women less, to sweeten the bitter pill? Ah, but here he or she will run into another problem: The Equal Pay Act, which made it illegal to pay women and men different amounts for the same job. The only recourse the poor bigot has is to try to steer women into those jobs that pay less or that keep women further away from the bigot physically. These would usually be the lower-ranked jobs in the organization. O'Neill's approach to studying the gender gap would assume (or so it seems to me) that the women have "chosen" the occupations they have. If she controls for the job description in her analyses she will find no discrimination, or hardly any. Unless the bigot goes ahead and breaks the law anyway.

It is only with time that a discriminating employer could affect women's earnings negatively, by promoting selectively or by refusing women the on-the-job training that is needed for promotions or by simply instituting a hostile work environment which encourages women to leave. I'm not saying that this sort of thing happens widely. I don't know if it does, but the point of focusing on only workers at the beginning stages of their careers is that we wouldn't catch most avenues of discrimination.

Second, focusing only on young workers may overlook discrimination for a different reason. Some bigots might like to have young women around and don't mind seeing the opening slots filled with a fair mixture of both women and men. What the bigots might have difficulty with is women in power, or sexually no-longer-attractive women in the place of work. Both of these reasons would only be picked up by data if it included older workers, too.

I'm not arguing that the gender gap between men and women might not widen over time because of the "choices' women make or because some other nondiscriminatory reasons. But focusing on only young workers does not prove that discrimination is no longer a problem at all.

This is how the wingnuts do the talking. I have not addressed the use of anecdotal evidence, of quoting a single woman who, say, threw away the chances to run the world in exchange for more time to learn to ride horses. That women, on average, earn less does not mean that no woman anywhere isn't earning lots. That discrimination against women exists doesn't mean that no man is ever treated unfairly. This is why anecdotal evidence doesn't prove anything about wider trends. In order to look at the problem we need to focus on the large outlines and on statistical studies.

The end of my gender gap series. I hope that you enjoyed reading it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Today's Action Alert

From the National Women's Law Center:

Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 along party lines to recommend that Samuel Alito be confirmed by the full Senate to the U.S. Supreme Court. Alito's nomination now moves to the full Senate where we believe it must be rejected. Senators are expected to begin debating the confirmation tomorrow, with a vote possible as soon as the end of this week.


Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or if you're having trouble getting through, click here for step-by-step instructions for calling your Senators directly.

Tell your Senators:

• The Senate's decision on Samuel Alito will have profound consequences for women for the next two generations and possibly more.

• If the Senator cares about women's rights, he/she should look at how Judge Alito's confirmation would affect people's lives and vote "no."

• The risks are simply too great to confirm Judge Alito. I urge the Senator to commit publicly to voting "no" on Alito, use the opportunity of the floor debate to express his/her concerns about Alito's record, and keep every possible option on the table for opposing Alito's confirmation.

Momentum is building in opposition to Alito, as all Democrats on the Committee held firm in their opposition to Alito's confirmation, and Senators on and off the Committee have made strong statements of opposition and concern in recent days. Senator Patrick Leahy, though he was one of 22 Democrats to support John Roberts for Chief Justice, said of the Alito nomination, "This is a nomination that I fear threatens the fundamental rights and liberties of all Americans now and for generations to come."

The large number of Senators who voted "no" understand that Samuel Alito would likely eviscerate core legal rights for women and shift the Court in a dangerous direction. His confirmation would jeopardize a woman's right to choose, undermine Congress's power to protect the public welfare in areas like family leave, and make it harder for victims of sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination to have a fair shake in court.


An Announcement

I won't be able to get the third part of my gender gap series done today. I've had one of those days when everything falls on top of you at the exact same time and everything needs immediate attention. But you can read the first two parts if you have not yet. They first part is here and the second here.

Please do read them if you are interested in the gender gap in earnings. The topic has been totally hijacked by the extreme right-wing and I meet more and more people these days who believe that what the wingnuts say is the truth.

Or if you are not interested in this topic, how about reading what Nancy Keenan says on the consequences of having Alito on the bench? Or what Glenn Greenwald tells us about the new polite rules applicable to political debate?

It Couldn't Happen To A Nicer Man

Ralph Reed now has to pay to get people to come to his political meetings:

Ralph Reed wants a good crowd at today's annual gathering of the Christian Coalition of Georgia. And he's willing to shell out cash for it.

His Republican campaign for lieutenant governor sent an e-mail to supporters this week offering to pay the $20 entrance fee and — for out-of-towners — an overnight stay in a hotel.

Reed campaign manager Jared Thomas characterized the offer as routine. "Certainly, we want our grass-roots people to be well-represented," he said.

Well, sure, every political candidate wants to see their activist supporters at a campaign event. But consider the context here: we're talking about a Christian Coalition of Georgia meeting. In a church. Reed, the religious-right golden boy, should be in a position in which he's turning away supporters at the door because there's just too many of them. Instead, he's sending out last-minute emails offering to pay people to show up.

Reed has been one of the major leaders of the radical fundamentalist cleric attack on our rights and way of life. He must have thought that his own way of life can stay unchanged by all this as he decided to get involved in the Abramoff scandal. But the Bible has disapproving bits about that sort of behavior, too.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Monday's Joke

It might be a nice series to start: a joke for every Monday. What do you think? My sense of humor is slightly sick. This is a joke I like a lot, but nobody ever laughs when I tell it:

Two fishes were swimming in an aquarium. They suddenly hit the wall. One turned to the other and said: "Dam!"

Or how about this one:

Two cows were munching on some hay. One of them turned to the other and said: "Isn't it awful about the mad cow disease?"

"Yes," answered the other cow, munching away. "I sure am glad I am a squirrel."

I'm sure you can do better. There are lots of good political jokes, too, but I don't feel like mentioning certain names again today.

We Are Still In Kansas

And where is the yellowcake road? George Bush gave a speech in Kansas today to an audience full of tears of gratitude and hero-worship. I don't think he wore those ruby slippers today, but he did stay ninety minutes and answered a large number of very friendly and gentle questions.

He told us that he has the right to wiretap to his heart's content:

In his remarks, Bush said that allowing the National Security Agency to monitor the international phone calls and e-mails of Americans with suspected ties to terrorists can hardly be considered "domestic spying."

"It's what I would call a terrorist surveillance program," Bush said at Kansas State. "If they're making a phone call in the United States, it seems like to me we want to know why."

He said he "had all kinds of lawyers review the process" to ensure it didn't violate civil liberties or the law.

And he insisted that a recent Supreme Court decision backs his contention that he had the authority to order the program through a resolution Congress passed after the 2001 terrorist attacks that lets him use force in the anti-terror fight.

"I'm not a lawyer, but I can tell you what it means: It means Congress gave me the authority to use necessary force to protect the American people, but it didn't prescribe the tactics," Bush said.

And no, the questions from the audience were not pre-screened! Of course not! It just happened that they were almost all friendly ones:

The White House portrayed the freewheeling question-and-answer session before about 9,000 people in the school's basketball arena as an example of Bush's comfort with being challenged on any topic. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the questions were not prescreened although they turned out to be friendly.

But the event was not open to the public — and the chosen locale was in the heart of Bush-friendly territory in this reliably Republican state. About 6,000 tickets were distributed to students by the university and 800 went to soldiers from nearby Fort Riley who just returned from Iraq.

Potemkin was the guy who rode ahead of the Russian empress to build up stage villages so that Catherine the Great would not find out how the poor really lived. This has nothing to do with anything...

As the inimitable Wolcott says:

The questions were not only fluffy and inane (one even asked if he had seen Brokeback Mountain), but they were often prefaced by obsequious tribute. "Mr. President, as chairperson of the local horticulture society, I want thank you for your aggressive stance on terrorism and on keeping Americans safe." This is not how you stress the urgency of renewing the Patriot Act, neither does blathering about your exercise regimen and comparing your knees to bald tires. This media event was a fascimile version of the Social Security barnstorm tour, and you would have thought the White House would have learned its lesson from that zigzag trip to nowhere.

Where is Potemkin when you need him?

Even More Advertising

For my gender gap in earnings series. You can read the first part here, and the second part here. The third part is still under my tinfoil helmet (with horns) but should appear tomorrow. It will be on how the conservatives interpret the evidence in the field.

I'm advocating the series because it provides a FREE summary of the issues at a fairly professional level. You can't get this on the net. I know, because I'm not totally stupid and I looked for a ready-made discussion before I started writing one from scratch.

It's worth the effort that reading it might take. Or you can save the series and read about it later when you get attacked by wingnuts and need facts.

And the stuff is very important.

A NYT Editorial on Alito

An outspoken one, an even impolite one. Gasp! Shouldn't we censor it somehow? And isn't opposing the president treasonous these days? Decide for yourself. Here is a snippet:

Judge Alito has consistently shown a bias in favor of those in power over those who need the law to protect them. Women, racial minorities, the elderly and workers who come to court seeking justice should expect little sympathy. In the same flat bureaucratic tones he used at the hearings, he is likely to insist that the law can do nothing for them.

The White House has tried to create an air of inevitability around this nomination. But there is no reason to believe that Judge Alito is any more popular than the president who nominated him. Outside a small but vocal group of hard-core conservatives, America has greeted the nomination with a shrug - and counted on its senators to make the right decision.

The real risk for senators lies not in opposing Judge Alito, but in voting for him. If the far right takes over the Supreme Court, American law and life could change dramatically. If that happens, many senators who voted for Judge Alito will no doubt come to regret that they did not insist that Justice O'Connor's seat be filled with someone who shared her cautious, centrist approach to the law.


The Gender Gap. Part Two: Empirical Evidence

You can read the first part in this series of posts here. It talks about the economic explanations that have been proposed to explain why on average men earn more than women. This post discusses the empirical evidence on the same topic and how it is collected.

By "empirical evidence" I mean all the zillions and zillions of studies that have looked at the reasons why women, on average, earn less than men by getting some real data and by analyzing it. Some of the wingnuts, including Steven Pinker in his Blank Slate book, give the impression that economists haven't done any of the relevant work, so that wingnuts can just declare whatever results are most pleasing to them. This is blatantly incorrect and makes me very angry, not because I am a feminist, but because I am also an economist and all that hard work of economists is buried in such flippant comments on the topic.

How is this empirical evidence created? Some sciences get their evidence from laboratories, but social sciences usually can't do that. Laboratory circumstances are not like the real world and by stripping away the whole environment and the time dimension we also strip away the central questions we are trying to answer. For social sciences are social, and this means that we will never be able to put people into an empty room with, say, computers, in order to come up with answers about how their whole lives went out there, in the society. I don't mean that laboratories wouldn't provide some useful information for economists, but on the whole we are limited to doing studies that employ data collected from actual living people out there.

The quality of this data limits what we can find out by analyzing it. Some data sets are just bad, full of holes and based on unreliable sources. But even with good data sets we are always going to have the problem that many things we are interested in measuring just can't be easily measured. Take the example of education. As I mentioned in my previous post on the theories of gender gap, one reason some earn more than others is because of greater education levels. But measuring education in actual data sets usually means employing the number of years a person has gone to school and to college as the proxy, or approximation, of education. This is better than nothing, and so is the alternative of using the highest degree the person has as the proxy, but neither of these takes into account the contents of the education or the quality of the institutions the person attended.

A much more severe problem presents itself when we try to measure discrimination in these data sets, because employers or coworkers or consumers that discriminate are not going to say so in a survey, and there will be no obvious proxy for discrimination itself. Sometimes researchers can use the number of court cases filed as such a proxy, but most large data sets have nothing on discrimination. So how do we go about measuring it at all?

There are two common answers. The first, and the best one, is to use audit studies. These are studies that have been extensively used to see if firms discriminate in their hiring of workers. The idea is to take a bunch of actors (or people who can act) and to train them all to act the same with a prospective employer. They are also given similar paperwork and they are told to give the same education and experience data. In short, these people try to be exactly the same in all the characteristics that might affect whether they get hired, except whatever the characteristic is that we want to evaluate. If it is sex discrimination in hiring, we would send out both female and male actors to apply to jobs in the same firms.

A study done in the restaurant industry in Philadelphia did exactly this to see if women and men who apply for server jobs are treated the same by the firms. What they found out was that the higher-priced restaurants discriminated against women. These are the restaurants where the servers would also earn the most. Thus, discrimination in hiring may cause women to earn less as restaurant servers. Incidentally, the researchers suggested that the reason for this discrimination is in customer discrimination.

Audit studies are good, and when they are done well they give us actual evidence on discrimination. The problem with audit studies is that they cannot last for years. This makes them useless in attempts to analyze promotion discrimination or differential treatment on the job.

The second answer, and the most common one, is to approach the problem from the other end. What if we could get data on people's wages and on all the variables that we know affect these wages: education, experience, whether the local job market is good, the occupation of the worker, age and so on? If we did this, and if we could standardize for all these characteristics, by holding them constant in the analysis, wouldn't we expect to find that after all these variables are taken into account there should be no gender wage difference left to be explained? And if there was such a difference, wouldn't it be due to discrimination?

This is the approach that is usually taken. It has its problems, and the main one is that if we don't have data on all the relevant variables that legitimately affect wages then any wage difference that still remains unexplained could be due to that lack of data and not due to discrimination. Or the total unexplained part could consist of some discrimination and of the lack of some important information. As information will never be perfect we are always going to have an argument about what the unexplained residual difference in wages between men and women means. But the better the data sets get the more it begins to look like discrimination. More about this later when I look at one study in greater detail.

A few more words on those tricky concepts of "holding constant" and "controlling for variables". As I mentioned in my theory post, there are several explanations for the gender gap. Each of these explanations suggests some things that might account for the wage difference. We call such things variables, because they take different values for different individuals. Age would be a variable, and so would belonging to a trade union, though the latter one is usually only coded as taking two values: yes or no. If we went through all the theories and made a list of all the variables that might affect earnings of men and women differently we would have the list of variables that we want to hold constant in our analysis.

To see what this entails, consider a simple example. I go out and buy some apples at the store. I then tell you that I spent a total of $5.30 , and ask you to tell me what the price is per pound of apples. Now, you can't do this, because I haven't told you how many pounds I bought. But if I also give you the pounds of apples I bought, the problem becomes very easy.

This is the task economists have when they analyze the gender gap in wages. It is as if they start with the total shopping bill and want to find out the individual prices of all items. To get there, they need information on the amounts purchased and on the types of goods purchased and on the quality of the goods. They also need information about the stores; whether they are in a city like New York where local prices are higher or in a rural area in the South or whatever. By getting all this additional information and by fitting it into a mathematical model it is possibly to arrive at a a good estimate of each price. If, at the end of this analysis, some consumers shopping bills still seem too large, then something else is going on at certain stores or with certain consumers or both.

I don't know if that made the idea of "controlling for" or "holding constant" any easier. The point I'm making is that when we hold, say, the years of education, constant in the analysis and we still find a remaining wage difference between men and women, then that remaining difference cannot be due to education. The more variables we hold constant this way, the less unexplained residual there should be. If our data were perfect, any unexplained residual would be caused by discrimination, because we would have taken all the other causes of different wages into account.

Let's look at one study in greater detail. I have picked the General Accounting Office (GAO) 2003 study as an example, because it is fairly recent, because it uses quite good data and because, if anything, it is biased to the right. There are many other quite similar studies with fairly similar findings. Thus, talking about this one study also covers most of the general points I'd like to make. Where it does differ in most other studies is that it also includes data on part-time workers and on some self-employed workers. This makes the data set richer for our purposes.

The GAO study uses data from

the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), a nationally representative longitudinal data set that includes a variety of demographic, family, and work-related characteristics for individuals over time. We tracked work and life histories of individuals who were between ages 25 and 65 at some point between 1983 and 2000.

Using our statistical model, we estimated how earnings differ between men and women after controlling for numerous factors that can influence an individual's earnings.

The number of included individuals is in the thousands. This means that the study is large enough to allow for some fairly fine-tuned analyses. The researchers report their results as follows:

In summary, we found:

Of the many factors that account for differences in earnings between men and women, our model indicated that work patterns are key. Specifically, women have fewer years of work experience, work fewer hours per year, are less likely to work a full-time schedule, and leave the labor force for longer periods of time than men. Other factors that account for earnings differences include industry, occupation, race, marital status, and job tenure. When we account for differences between male and female work patterns as well as other key factors, women earned, on average, 80 percent of what men earned in 2000. While the difference fluctuated in each year we studied, there was a small but statistically significant decline in the earnings difference over the time period. (See table 2 in app. II.)

Even after accounting for key factors that affect earnings, our model could not explain all of the difference in earnings between men and women. Due to inherent limitations in the survey data and in statistical analysis, we cannot determine whether this remaining difference is due to discrimination or other factors that may affect earnings. For example, some experts said that some women trade off career advancement or higher earnings for a job that offers flexibility to manage work and family responsibilities.

This is a teeny-weeny bit biased, for reasons that I am going to discuss later. But notice that the study was unable to explain about one half of the total gender gap in wages. The initial gender gap in the data set showed that men earned 44% more than women, on average. After using all the data on variables that might explain this gap, we are still left finding that men earned 20% more than women, on average, due to mysterious reasons. So it's not quite true that "work patterns are the key", unless quite a small key is enough to open the locks in the labor market.

So what variables did this study control for? The answer can be divided into three groups:

To determine why an earnings difference between men and women may exist, our model controlled for a range of variables, which can be grouped into three variable sets.

The first set of independent variables consisted of demographic characteristics, including gender, age, and race. We also included an education variable that indicated the highest number of years of education each respondent attained by the end of the sample period. Family-related demographic variables included marital status, number of children, and the age of the youngest child in the household. We also included other income (defined as family income minus a respondent's own personal earnings), the region where individuals lived (i.e., in the
South or not), and whether they lived in a rural or urban area (i.e., in a metropolitan area or not).

The second set of independent variables pertained to past work experience. Total work experience was defined as the actual number of years an individual worked for money since age 18. This variable was computed as self-reported experience as reported in 1984 (or the year the individual entered the panel), augmented by hours of work divided by 2,000 in each subsequent year. We also included a variable measuring job
tenure, defined as the length of time an individual had spent in his or her current job.

The third set of independent variables included labor market activity reported in a given survey year. Variables included hours worked in the past year, weeks out of the labor force in the past year, and weeks unemployed in the past year. For our analysis, we considered time spent unemployed and time out of the labor force as work "interruptions," but we did not include time off for one's own illness or a family member's illness, vacation and other time off, or time out because of strike. We also included a variable that accounted for an individual's full-time or part-time employment status, defined as the average number of hours an individual worked per week on his or her main job. Individuals were considered to have worked part-time if they worked fewer than 35 hours per week and full-time if they worked 35 hours or more per week. Other variables in this category included the individual's industry, occupation, and an indicator of union membership. We also accounted for self-employment status, defined as whether respondents worked for someone else, for themselves, or for both themselves and someone else.

Ok. The study controlled for some variables which are measures of productivity and effort at work: education level, total work experience and tenure on the job, as well as several variants of hours worked in the recent past. The hours worked equals the pounds of apples in my earlier example, and need to be held constant to arrive at a wage measure. All the other variables mentioned are ways to test the first theory I mentioned in Part I: that men might be more productive workers. Age is controlled for partly the same reason. If older workers are less healthy they might also be less productive. On the other hand, experience tends to go up with age (there are more years available for experience) so if age was not controlled for separately the experience variable would pick up both the effect of increasing experience and the effect of getting older and these might cancel each other out.

The study also controlled for many variables that relate to the second theory I discussed in Part I: that women prefer jobs with lower wages because such jobs might offer more flexibility which is useful for mothers who are the major caregivers of their children. Where do you see those, you might ask. Here:

Marital status, number of children and the age of the youngest child are all variables that should pick up pressures on women to focus more time on their families than on their jobs if the second theory is correct. Marital status might matter if the culture expects married women to do the household chores for their husbands, and if this makes married women more stressed and less energetic at work. The more children there are the more stress the mother should feel, and the age of the youngest child will pick up the pressure for more hands-on parenting needs.

Being a part-time worker is also related to this theory. If taking care of the children is the mother's duty then we'd expect more women to be in the part-time category. Part-time work pays less even in the per hour sense.

Finally, and this is important, the study controlled for occupation. This means that the sex-segregation in jobs is at least partially controlled for. The fact that women and men may not, on average, work in the same occupation is at least partially held constant here. Very important to point out, because it turns out to be relevant for criticizing the conclusions of the researchers.

The other variables that are controlled for relate to things like local labor market circumstances (urban vs. rural, say) and unionization rates. These can affect earnings but unless men and women have different geographic locations or unionization rates, on average, their effect should be neutral. Race is controlled for to remove any specifically racial discrimination from the final results, because this study focused on sex rather than on race discrimination.

After applying all these corrections, the study found that it could account for almost one half of the existing gender gap. What does this mean?

The usual argument would be that the remaining 20% difference between the average earnings of men and women could be due to discrimination, but it could also be due to "omitted variables", things, which we believe matter but which we can't measure in the data set. Remember the conclusions I quoted earlier? These:

Even after accounting for key factors that affect earnings, our model could not explain all of the difference in earnings between men and women. Due to inherent limitations in the survey data and in statistical analysis, we cannot determine whether this remaining difference is due to discrimination or other factors that may affect earnings. For example, some experts said that some women trade off career advancement or higher earnings for a job that offers flexibility to manage work and family responsibilities.

But they did standardize for a large number of things which relate to the work-and-family responsibilities of women: marital status, the number of children, the age of the youngest child, part-time work and the occupation the person has. Don't these measure flexibility at all? Isn't the usual argument that the occupations women choose are chosen because of their flexibility? Well, we are holding that choice constant here, and we still get a 20% unexplained gender gap.

It may not all be due to sex discrimination. But it's unlikely to be all due to some miraculous measure of job flexibility that isn't reflected on how flexible a job is in allowing people to work part-time or in the actual occupation the person has! Bangs head against the wall in frustration.

On the other hand, the variables that the study did control for are not necessarily non-discriminatory. Consider occupation. If women don't really "choose" their occupations but are steered into them through career counselors, schools and families, or if women are discriminated against in hiring and in promotions, then the variable "occupations" is not something we should hold constant when we analyze discrimination. Because it could be affected by discrimination itself.

I hope that this short survey has given you an idea of how we go about analyzing the gender gap in earnings. Many other studies have arrived at very similar results: showing that some of the gender gap can be accounted for by other reasons than discrimination but that there remains a large unexplained residual. Whether one believes that it is all due to omitted variables reflecting job flexibility or ability or whether one believes that at least some of it is due to unfair treatment of women in the labor force or elsewhere seems to depend on the assessor's political bias. But the audit studies do show that sex discrimination in hiring is real, and so do the many sex discrimination court cases which are decided for the plaintiffs.

I could have discussed other studies which are better in some ways than the GAO study, worse in other ways. As an example, I know of studies which include much more data on education of individuals, including SAT scores, grade point averages and the person's major while in college. The findings are not fundamentally changed by such inclusions: there still remains a large unexplained difference in earnings by gender.

My last post will discuss the right-wing's "interpretations" all this research in a little bit more detail.
Now that I read through this I'm wondering if it is at all clear. It's hard to explain what multiple regression analysis does with just words. Do ask questions in the comments if you want clarification on any of the issues. Thanks for reading something this long and dry.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Something Funny for Sunday

I called my mom today. She lives in Old Europe, and I call her every Sunday, in case the NSA is interested. Anyway, she happened to mention what she believes my political views to be: slightly right of center. SLIGHTLY RIGHT OF CENTER!

And this is my mother, the woman who knows me best in the whole world. But here in the United States I'm viewed as a foaming-in-the-mouth extreme leftist. What do you make of that?


I want to remind you that I will post the second part of my gender gap series after midnight tonight (EST). It's longer than the first one but full of useful facts and a few snide remarks about the wingnuts. The last part will be a great demolition derby of the wingnut writings in this field. I'm looking forward to writing that one!

I no longer feel guilty about taking a stand on this topic. When I read the Newsweek article on how poorly boys are doing at school (discussed in the next post), with all its slurs against feminism and its reliance on innate explanations without any time frame or history added I realized that the opposition never tries to be objective or neutral. For if they were, they would argue that boys who don't excel at school have CHOSEN to do so, or their parents have, and we should not interfere with such free "choices". This is how their arguments about the gender gap and its causes would be translated into a slightly different field if they were truly consistent. But no. Suddenly the very same arguments based on biologically immutable differences cause the exact opposite conclusion: Change the whole system!

I also have advertising on this blog. It pays for a part of my new broadband connection (yeah!). I try to pick advertisers who offer good products, so if you need to buy a present you can do worse than clicking on their sites to see what they offer. And no, nobody told me to say this. I say it out of my own greedy motives.

The broadband is wonderful! All those minutes spent on waiting sites to load are now available for something else! It's like getting an extension on my lease to life. Thank you so much for giving it to me for my birthday.

The Trouble With Girls Against Boys

I put together two titles from my recent readings, one from Katha Pollitt's column "Girls Against Boys", and one from a recent Newsweek article entitled "The Trouble With Boys" (thanks to Rietz Fischer for this link). They both talk about the difficulties boys have at school. Or rather, the difficulties some boys have, though the Newsweek article does not clarify that very well.

"The Trouble with Boys" can be summarized as stating that the author believes boys are a different species from girls, need totally different things to thrive at school, and feminism has made the American schools into a place where only girls can strive. Schools are for girls. If we continue down this road, horrible things will happen, horrible. Like smart women won't be able to find husbands. The article quotes every biased right-winger "scientist" I've ever heard, especially Michael Gurian who is not even a scientist but a psychologist with no science training, and includes this little quote:

Some scholars, notably Christina Hoff Sommers, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, charge that misguided feminism is what's been hurting boys. In the 1990s, she says, girls were making strong, steady progress toward parity in schools, but feminist educators portrayed them as disadvantaged and lavished them with support and attention. Boys, meanwhile, whose rates of achievement had begun to falter, were ignored and their problems allowed to fester.

Now you know. Notice how "some scholars" say this, scholars which happen to have no training in the field of education...

Katha Pollitt addresses the sudden flood of these articles and opinion pieces on how bad it is for women if men do poorly at school in her column, though she is mainly responding to John Tierney's feverish rants:

The conservative spin on the education gender gap is that feminism has ruined school for boys. "Why would any self-respecting boy want to attend one of America's increasingly feminized universities?" asks George Gilder in National Review. "Most of these institutions have flounced through the last forty years fashioning a fluffy pink playpen of feminist studies and agitprop 'herstory,' taught amid a green goo of eco-motherism and anti-industrial phobia." Sounds like fun, but it doesn't sound much like West Texas A&M, Baylor, Loyola or the University of Alabama, where female students outnumber males in about the same proportion as they do at trendy Berkeley and Brown. Even Hillsdale College, the conservative academic mecca that became famous for rejecting federal funds rather than comply with government regulations against sex discrimination, has a student body that is 51 percent female. Other pundits--Michael Gurian, Kate O'Beirne, Christina Hoff Sommers--blame the culture of elementary school and high school: too many female teachers, too much sitting quietly, not enough sports and a feminist-friendly curriculum that forces boys to read--oh no!--books by women. Worse--books about women.

For the record, in middle school my daughter was assigned exactly one book by a woman: Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God. In high school she read three, Mrs. Dalloway, Beloved and Uncle Tom's Cabin, while required reading included male authors from Shakespeare and Fitzgerald and Sophocles to (I kid you not) James Michener and Robert Adams, author of Watership Down. Four books in seven years: Is that what we're arguing about here? Furthermore, I don't know where those pundits went to school, but education has always involved a lot of sitting, a lot of organizing, a lot of deadlines and a lot of work you didn't necessarily feel like doing. It's always been heavily verbal--in fact, today's textbooks are unbelievably dumbed down and visually hyped compared with fifty years ago. Conservatives talk as if boys should be taught in some kind of cross between boot camp and Treasure Island--but what kind of preparation for modern life would that be? As for the decline of gym and teams and band--activities that keep academically struggling kids, especially boys, coming to school--whose idea was it to cut those "frills" in the first place if not conservatives?

The story never changes. It is always about a fixed education cake and who can get most of it. If girls are doing better it must be hurting boys. That, my dear readers, is the hidden right-wing agenda. Because the wingnuts want to segregate girls and boys in education so that they can bring up "manly and godly" men. Segregated education would also make it a lot easier to give girls' classes less resources and stuff. And I do suspect that there are wingnuts who really would love to see women uneducated so that the "bare-foot and in the kitchen" part would be easier.

Let's cast some light into the corridors of tortured wingnut thinking. First, notice that anecdotal evidence is easy to come by. I know a little girl who has a lot of attention problems and her school ignores her. I could find several others and then I could write a story about how girls are doing poorly at school. In other words, anecdotes do not make convincing statistical evidence. We must look at the overall numbers.

These numbers do show that boys have problems, but the boys that have problems are those belonging to ethnic minorities and the poor. Ampersand provided this table on the United States which is very enlightening:

Are we talking about boys versus girls because we don't dare to utter race or class in the discussion? Look carefully at the bottom row in this table. It shows that the boys' problem has a lot to do with poverty. And the race comparisons reveal that school performance is a problem with minority boys. This suggests to me that something about the culture of masculinity might be played out here, and that perhaps also poorer boys see their future jobs in blue-collar fields or in crime. Poorer girls don't have very good money-making opportunities in those fields, so they may feel forced to try to get more education. Just an idle thought, but then so are many of the ones the media publishes.

Second, notice how these articles always talk about the need to sit down and to listen quietly at school as one the mean things feminists have somehow done to make boys do poorly? And how it was the feminist movement which confused our clear understanding, the clear understanding that we always did have in the past, of how different boys and girls really are? Well, you might then think about the fact that the schools where students have to sit down and listen quietly were made explicitly for boys. Not for girls who were not allowed to go to school at the beginning, but for boys. By those old-timers who knew exactly what the biological needs of boys were.

Third, these articles never look at what is happening to boys and girls in other countries. Because it would mess up the ideological message they are trying to convey: that it's time to refocus the education system on maintaining the old gender roles. If you look at college participation rates by gender across the world you will find that female participation rates are equal or higher than male participation rates in all countries which allow women and girls access to education. Even Iran, that member of the axis-of-evil, has sixty percent women among its university students.

Is Iran a place where feminists have changed the school system to disadvantage boys?

These types of questions are never answered in the wingnut articles, as they would not lead to the conclusion that the article wishes to reach: that we need to go back to the times when it was girls that were really suffering in education. Otherwise the sky will fall.

The last paragraph explains why I get so very angry when I read the wingnut literature on the topic. Because of the hidden ultimate goal of all these writings. At the same time I always feel guilty because I do care about how well boys are doing at school, and I do want all children to have equal access to good education. But I don't want to see girls put down so that boys can do better, and that is what the wingnut message is. Read the Newsweek article again and notice how the girls are described in it: as obedient little ciphers.

Surely it is possible to create an education system which takes care of all children without causing the end of the Western civilization, and without arguing that the trouble with boys is really all about girls. Without setting Girls Against Boys.
I strongly recommend Ampersand's two-part series on this topic: Part I and Part II.