Saturday, May 5, 2012

Rachel Maddow vs. Alex Castellanos on Meet the Press

In the weekly roundtable discussion last Sunday, Rachel Maddow made the point that women make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. Republican strategist Alex Castellanos continually interrupted her, which Rachel calmly called him on. Then, having been warned about this interrupting, he finally let Rachel finish and then said, “I love how passionate you are. I wish you are as right about what you’re saying as you are passionate about it. I really do.” Rachel responded, “That’s really condescending." And she was absolutely right about that. Kudos to Rachel Maddow for responding in a mature and articulate way to the crass Castellonos, instead of losing her cool, as I no doubt would have done.

This exchange illustrates the drawback to these "discussions", which have to be squeezed into a limited portion of time, with the result that no in depth analysis can take place. This subject probably needs several hours of time to explore adequately. I have no doubt Rachel is correct about her stat, as she is a top-notch journalist, but we need to then analyze the stat to make any sense of it.

 Years ago I heard a stat which explained a lot about this issue. That stat was that "never-married women make as much as never-married men". This shows rather conclusively that it is the injection of family into the equation which leads to the disparity. Another study looked at couples in which both partners had careers, and who were committed therefore to sharing household duties equally. The study found that early on the couples were fairly successful at this. However, once the first child was born, it changed dramatically. Therefore, the problem should be said to be caused by the decisions couples make to divide up household duties after the children start coming, and not to a problem with the employment market.

The points Castellano made about men working more hours per week and going more into fields that pay well compared to women were probably valid, but a more nuanced analysis would go much deeper than this, and look at choices women make compared to men, regarding their career path. This explains the so-called "gender gap", not some meaningless statistic thrown out without any context or explanation.

My sister sometimes says, "Do your want the facts, or do you want the truth?"  I don't know all the dynamics at play in the gender pay gap, but I do know this: if you tell me that women make on the average 77 cents on the dollar compared to men, you have told me the facts, but you have told me nothing about the truth.

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