Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Stossel offers wage gap ammo

I like John Stossel. His book is on my Amazon wish list. With his most recent article over at Town Hall, John discusses something few dare to touch; no not Marth Burke's naked body but the gender wage "gap."

Suppose two people have equal potential, but one takes on more demanding, consuming, lucrative jobs while the other places a higher priority on family. The one who makes work the focus will be more productive for an employer than the one who puts his or her home life first. The latter will get more of the pleasures of family. So he (and it tends to be "he") will make more money, even though she would be equally productive and equally rewarded if she made the same choices.

"Women and men look at their life," said Farrell, "and women say, 'What do I need? Do I need more money, or do I need more time?' And women are intelligent enough to say, I need more time. And so women lead balanced lives. Men should be learning from women."

One irony is that some people, especially young women, may make the choices that lead to the pay gap precisely because they have been taught the job market shortchanges women. Women who see the market as hostile may put their hearts into their homes instead of their careers -- thus making less money.

That cyclical argument is one I have not heard before. It makes sense however. If a woman assumes she is going to make less money why would she demand to be the breadwinner, when she thinks her husband will be compensated better for the same efforts?

But the market isn't hostile. The market is just. It rewards you for the work you do, not for the work you choose not to do. If men want the family time many women have, we must accept lower financial rewards -- and if women want the money, they have to work like money-grubbing men.