The Pseudo-Science of Comparable Worth: Phrenology for Modern Times

Report Jobs and Labor

The Pseudo-Science of Comparable Worth: Phrenology for Modern Times

February 29, 1988 21 min read Download Report
Robert Rector
Senior Research Fellow
Robert is a leading authority on poverty, welfare programs and immigration in America.

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t 635 Febr uary 29,1988 THE PSEUDO-SCIENCE OF COMPARABLE WORTH PHRENOLOGY FOR MODERN TIMES I INTRODUCTION America seldom has seen a policy proposal which, though apparently well intentioned would be as destructive as comparable worth. It is a doctrine that maintains that ''fair wages must be determined by bureaucracies and courts, not markets. Comparable worth wage controls would damage the economy permanently and impede J;athec than promote the economic and social advance of American women, creating a "separate but equal" status for the female work force by discouraging women from entering non-traditional occupations.

Based neither on solid data nor sound principles, comparable worth is a pseudo-science that should not be taken seriously by lawmakers.

Just as the 19 th century science" of phrenology sought to determine an individual's personality by measuring bumps on the skull, modem comparable worth seeks to determine the "true value" of jobs by having "experts" rank them in numeric scales. While the market pays wa ges according to the objective factors of supply and demand, comparable worth science'' would fix wages ultimately by the subjective judgments of a handful of evaluators.

No wage system could be less fair Intellectual Beachhead Recent legislation (S. 5523 introduced by SenatorsDaniel Evans, the Washington Republican, and Alan Cranston, the California Democrat, would create a commission to examine the issue of equal pay for jobs of comparable worth within the federal government. Similar studies already have been undertaken by some state governments. Proponents of the bill seek to use the proposed commission to popularize and legitimize the notion that market-derived wages "discriminate" against women. Thus the commission is intended to serve as an intellectu al beachhead for establishing comparable worth wage controls, first within the federal work force and later within the economy in general.

Were this to happen, the economic consequences would be disastrous. Among other things, a comparable worth program wo uld Reduce American competitiveness by cutting the salaries of engineers and scientists while raising the pay of typists and retail clerks Reduce the gross national product by as much as $150 billion a year Destroy up to 4 million jobs ARE WOMEN'S WAGES U N FAIRLY LOW On average women work at somewhat less skilled jobs than do men. This is not necessarily the result of discrimination. Nor does it mean that female workers are paid less than is appropriate for the skill levels and economic productivity of the j obs they hold. In fact, evidence indicating that traditionally female jobs are consistently underpaid relative to male jobs is difficult to muster. Example: though comparable worth advocates argue that female clerical workers are underpaid, the fact is th a t a secretary earns almost the same wage as an auto mechanic. Telephone operators, another female-dominated profession earn about the same wage as bus drivers and 10 percent more than garbage collectors For other comparisons, see chart I Comparing Male an d Female Occupations I Qardemi I I I I I I I o 5oiooi5o2oo25o3oo95o4oo45o5oo Median Weekly Pay In 1986 (in dollars) Hetltage InfoChad Source: Earl E Mellor Weekly Earnings in 1986: A Look at More than 200 Occupations," The MOnrhZy Labor Review, June 1987, p p. 41-46 2 The wages of professional nurses also are cited as "proof' that women are underpaid. But the average for skilled blue collar craft workers and is one-third more than the average blue collar worker. To argue that nurses are underpaid suggests th a t they should be in the top half of paid professional workers. Perhaps they should. But this surely is a decision best left to the market and not to a bureaucrat registered nurses make 92 percent of the median-wage for professionals. Their pay exceeds I T H EORIES OF WAGE DISTORTION Free market wages governed by the objective laws of supply and demand are both efficient and fair, since they are determined both by the economic productivity of specific occupations and the choices of millions of workers in sele c ting the most desirable jobs available. Comparable worth advocates obviously disagree. They offer two theories to bolster their proposition that wages in traditional female jobs are below fair market wages implying discrimination Barriers. First, they arg u e that female workers are barred from entering a 'great many traditional male occupations; this causes female labor to be "crowded" into a narrow range of female jobs. The resulting oversupply of female labor causes wages for these jobs to become depresse d.

Were this true, there would be evidence of large numbers of women competing for a relatively small number of jobs. But even comparable worth theorists admit that there is little evidence of such queuing? Indeed, often they argue the opposite: that deman d outstrips supply in such female jobs as nursing that allegedly are discriminated against Cultural Bias. The second theory of wage distortion supposes the existence of "cultural bias." According to this theory, the social upbringing of male employers cau s es them to I undervalue traditional female work. Thus employers pay workers in female jobs less than workers in male jobs of comparable skill and productivity levels. In essence, this theory contends that workers in traditional female jobs are paid less t h an their actual level of productivity in the economy. But if this were true, employers should be reaping a windfall bonus due to the unpaid productivity they gain from women's labor; profit levels in I 8 1 Earl F. Mellor Weekly Earnings in 1986: A Look at More Than 200 Occupations The Monthly Labor 2 Paula England, "Explanation of Job Segregation and the Sex Gap in Pay in Contpuruble WorSh:Issue for the.

Review, June 1987, pp.41-46 80's (U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Washington, D.C Vol. 1,1984, pp. 55- 64 3 industries with large numbers of traditional female jobs should be unusually high. In fact has caused workers in female jobs to be paid below their true rate of economic productivity profits in such industries are average for all industries. Thus the r e is no evidence that bias EXAMINING THE WAGE GAP Comparable worth advocates enjoy pointing to the gender "pay gap." And it is true that women earn, on average, 25 percent per hour less than men! But up to two-fifths of this pay gap can be explained by ob y ious differences between men and women in ears of education, years of work experience and periods of leaving the labor market. Y This leaves an "unexplained wage gap of roughly 15 percentage points between men and women workers. Comparable worth advocates contend that some or all of this gap is the result of discrimination. Yet the wage gap studies cited by comparable worth advocates exclude many important variables which are difficult or impossible to measure. These include profound differences between me n and women in their long-term work expectations, time commitments toward the family, tolerance for difficult working conditions, orientation toward skientific and mechanical work, interests in management positions and financial rewards, and other differen c es affecting work interests Second, methodological deficiencies distort all economic studies of the gender "wage gap." Wage gap analysis contends that workers with equal "human capital that is, years of education and years of work experience) should recei v e equal pay. This approach leads to absurd conclusions. Example: A male worker, Bill, has four years of college and a BS in electrical engineering; a female ,worker, Anne, has four years of college and a BA in English. Both have been employed for four yea r s; Bill works as an engineer and Anne works as a secretary. Since both workers have identical years of education and work, wage gap models would expect them to be paid equally. Any difference in pay'would be attributed to "discrimination" or held to be '" u nexplained and thus suspect). Due to logical flaws of this sort, wage gap analysis inevitably discovers "pay discrimination" against female jobs even though none actually exists Why Male and Female Wages Differ Males and females historically have performe d different roles in society and the economy. Males worked primarily to support families; women's energies were focused 3 Randy Hodson and Paula England Industrial Structure and Sex Differences in Earnings in Induhial.

Relatiom, Val. 25, No. 1 (Wmter.l p.2 2 4 Mellor, op. cit. The ratio of the median weekly wage for full-time female workers to male full-time workers is 69.2 percent, up from around 60 percent in the mid-l%Os. However, female full-time workers work 41.1 hours per week compared to 44.7 hours f o r men. Adjusted for actual number hours worked per week, the female/male pay ratio is 753 percent 5 Donald J. Treiman and Heidi I. Hartmann, eds.,,Women, Wonk, and Wages: Equal Pay for Jobs of Equal Value (Washington, D.C National Academy Press, 1981) pp3 6-

37. See also H. Sanborn Pay Differences Between Men and Women in Indusbial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 17,1964 4 I inside the home. When the typical woman did enter the work force, it was either for brief only 30 percent of middle-aged women were emp l oyed outside the home periods prior to marriage or as a supplement to.the male worker's income. As late as 1950 This traditional role differentiation produced profound divergence in attitudes and expectations about work. While women's attitudes and roles a re changing very rapidly today, substantial differences between men and women still remain. It is these differences in attitudes concerning work, and not discrimination, which explain the differences in male and female pay. Specifically Men remain more co n cerned with earning money in the labor market, hence they place a greater emphasis on financially rewarding education and training Men remain in the work force more consistently, gaining increased experience resulting in higher levels of productivity. Wom e n are more-likely to moveimmd.out of the work force When seeking employment, women tend to place greater emphasis on the non-monetary aspects of jobs; thus when compared to men they tend to choose jobs with lower pay but higher non-monetary rewards A numb er of studies support the existence of these critical differences Work Expectations. Young women were asked in 1968 whether or not they expected to be in the labor force at age

35. Only 28 percent of white women answered yes; by contrast nearly all males expected to be working at age 35.6 Because they did not expect to spend much of their lives working, women in this age group placed little emphasis on vocational preparation. Such differences help to explain today's low number of professionals among older women workers Career and Educational Orientation. Women pursue different goals in education and work from those of men; they are less interested in making money and becoming leaders more interested in helping others and working with people. This lower int e rest in financial rewards can be seen in the selection of college majors, an area where discriminatory barriers clearly no longer play a role. Women graduating from college in 1985, for instance were far more likely than men to major in such traditionally female areas as education health sciences, 'and home economics, and far less likely than males to major in financially lucrative fields such as computer science, engineering, and physical science. Among female high school seniors "academically prepared" f o r science careers with course work including calculus and physics, only 18 percent expressed a career interest in engineering, science, or technology. Of similarly prepared males, 64..percent expressed such interest 6 Economic Report of the Resident (Wash i ngton, D.C U.S. Government Printing Office, 1983, p..215 7 Manpower Comments, June 1987, p.17 5 Work Experience and Work Interruptions. Women workers on average will have nine fewer years in the work force than men and -are more likely to work part time. W omen move in and out of the labor force much more frequently than men, with periods of unemployment often linked to child-rearing responsibilities. At the end of their careers women workers will have twice as many breaks in employment as comparably aged m e n For both males and females, employment interruptions have a profound effect in lowering future wages. Surveys show that a worker leaving the labor force for five years (for example to care for small children) upon returning to the work force would earn o ne-third less than an identical worker who was employed continuously through the five-year period. Even five years after reentering to the work force, the returning worker still would earn 15 percent less than the continuously employed worker. 9 Less Care er Emphasis. Despite their rapidly increasing presence in the labor force women continue to bear a greater share of family responsibilities than do men.

Consequently, they tend to place a lower emphasis on their careers than do men. Women working full time spend fewer hours in the work place than men. One survey asked working women if they w uld like to be promoted; only 49 percent said yes, compared with 63 percent of men Another survey found that 52 percent of women are willing to give up their jobs to f o llow a spouse who has obtained a better job in anojher city, compared with 14 percent of men t Non-monetary Benefits and Job Preferences The employment preferences of men and women and the influence of these on occupational choices are also crucial to und e rstanding the "wage gap Research confirms that female jobs offer higher levels of such non-monetary benefits as pleasant working conditions, flexible work'schedules, agreeable working relationships, and interesting work. Women tend to place a higher value on non-monetary job benefits than do men and thus are drawn to jobs .which offer these benefits. The available data on female preferences indicate that the low representation of women in high paying blue collar craft occupations may be due largely to such , differences in'female preferences rather than discrimination.12 Moreover, because of their greater interest in non-monetary rewards, it should be no surprise that women workers will tend to receive somewhat lower wages than men. In one controlled experim e nt; male and female workers occupying the same blue collar jobs in a manufacturing firm were offered new jobs on the production line. The production jobs would be better paying but would involve more physical exertion, unpleasant working conditions, and e x tra hours of work. Male and female workers were asked how much added 8 Shirley J. Smith Revised Worklife Tables Reflect 1979-80 Experience Monthly Labor Review, August 1985 9 Mary Corcoran, Greg Duncan, and'Michael Ponza A Longitudinal Analysis of White W omen's Wages 10 Polhig data from USA Today, June 16,1987 11 Carl C. Hoffman and Kathleen P. Hoffman Does Comparable Worth Obscure the Real Issues Personnel.

Journal, January 1987, p. 92 12 Randall K. Filer, The Role of Personality and Tastes in Determining Occupational Structure, Indusbial and.

Lubor Relafions Review, April 1986, p. 4

23. See also, Randall K. Filer Male-Female Wage Differences: The Importance of Compensating Differentials Indusbial and Labor Relations Review, April 1985 JoumalofHuman Reso urces, Fall 1983, p.516 6 pay they would require to accept these more demanding new jobs. Both males and females sought extra pay for the more difficult work, but-females demanded.$1,200 more per year than did the men for the new job. Moreover, nearly hal f the women said that would not take the new jobs under any circumstances. Not surprisingly few women moved into the higher paying production jobs As this study indicates, women are more inclined than men to accept lower paying jobs in order to avoid arduo u s or otherwise undesirable working conditions a fact of enormous importance in explaining the current "wage gap."13 THE PROGRESS OF WOMEN IN THE U.S. ECONOMY Despite continuing differences between men and women, women's attitudes toward work are changing d ramatically, and the wage differential reflects this change. While in 1968 only 28 percent of young white women expected to be in the labor force at age 35 toda 70 percent of young white women expect working when they reach the age of 35. Because of this, American women are more likely today than in the past to enter skilled occupations, more likely to obtain post-secondary degrees, and more likely to enter traditionally male fields.15 received one-third. Specifically, women earned 30 percent of all d egrees in medicine, 21 percent of degrees in dentistry, and 38 percent of degrees in law lJ In 1965, women received only 3 percent of all professional degrees; by 1985, they Narrowing Wage Differential. As women have changed their career goals and acquire d more education, training, and work experience, their earnings have increased at a rapid pace. In 1976, female full-time workers earned 69 percent of what male full-time workers earned. By 1986, female earnings increased to 75 percent of male earnings. If c hange continues at its present pace, by 1995 women will receive 85 percent of male earnings.16 female labor productivity, not the result of arbitrary political or court-imposed restructuring of wage levels. Female wages will achieve parity with male wages only when women have become identical with men in work experience and continuity, education levels and orientation, technical skills, and non-monetary job preferences. Any policy that seeks to establish an artificial "equity" between men and women before t hese underlying factors which determine productivity are equalized will retard the long-term advancement of women in the economy by providing increased financial incentives for women to remain in lower-skilled "pink collar" oc&pations This narrowing of th e average wage differential is the result of dramatic imsrovements in 13 Hoffman and Hoffman, op.cit pp. 83-95 14 Economic RepH of the President, op. cit p. 220 15 In 1%5, women received 42 percent of all bachelor's degrees awarded; one-third of all master s degrees; and 10 percent of all doctoral degrees. By 1985, they received about half of all bachelor's and master's degrees and 30 percent of doctoral degrees Washington, D.C., September 1987 p.

36. Figures are adjusted for the actual number of hours worke d per week. Projected future earnings are based on a five-year rolling average 16 Calculated from data in U.S. Office of Personnel Management, CompcuabZe Worth for FedemZJobs 7 Good-bye to the Pink Collar Ghetto Examination of the American labor force pro vides no evidence for the argument that discrimination crowds women into a narrow "pink collar ghetto" of traditional female jobs.

Far from being barred from most jobs, women now comprise a substantial part of the work force in the overwhelming majority of occupations across the economy. For example women now constitute 20 percent or more of the workers in every single professional and managerial occupation except engineering and the ministry; and these-last two occupations comprise less than 10 percent of professional and managerial employment in the U.S.

Overall, women are well represented in virtually every job category except such blue collar craft occupations as auto mechanics, bulldozer operators, and r00fers.l~ The absence of women in these jobs is m ore likely to be explained by female tastes and preferences and not large scale labor discrimination THE PSEUDO-SCIENCE OF COMPARABLE WORTH Comparable worth advocates sought initially to establish standardized wages for lkomparable'l jobs in different fir m s and industries. However, even the most ardent supporters by now have admitted that, by bureaucratizing and controlling the entire labor market, such a policy would result in economic disaster. More recent proposals have called for wage controls within i ndividual firms. While the government would not set a single nationwide wage level for each occupation, it would, through regulation and court action dictate acceptable "wage ratios" between, say, engineers and secretaries within each firm.

But government intrusion would not end with these wage controls. If comparable worth for example, determined that a computer programmer, grade 3, and a typist, grade 5, should be paid the same wage, the government would then have to assure that typists and programmers a r e all korrectly'l graded in order to prevent employers evading its policy. To prevent over or undergrading the government would have to monitor, regulate, and ultimately control all aspects personnel administration within the private sector, including job description, classification, and promotion. Thus comparable worth effectively calls for the largest regulatory expansion in the history of the American economy No Objective Means. Comparable worth advocates claim that they merely seek an objective, bias f r ee" job evaluation system to determine the value of jobs nation wide thereby avoiding arbitrary government wage-setting. This, they claim, simply would be a variation of standard job evaluations already used by many private sector firms. This claim is unt r ue. Traditional job evaluation in the private sector seeks to mirror market-derived wages. It is often used as .an .alternative to market-based wage-surveys, not because it-will give different results, but because it is faster and cheaper. Comparable wort h job 17 Mellor, op. eit 8 evaluation, on the other hand, seeks to "rectify" alleged biases in market wages. It seeks to determine the "true value of jobs and rejects the market as a standard for evaluation.18 But there simply is no objective means of dete r mining proper wages independent of supply and demand. Unhinging job evaluation from its foundations in the market place inevitably would lead to pure subjectivity. Comparable worth job evaluations systems not only are not objective, their methods of deter m ining worth are so arbitrary and capricious that proponents cannot even agree among themselves What is Objective A study by Richard Burr of the University of Washington compared the Iowa, Minnesota Vermont, and Washington State comparable worth systems an d found that these systems had "objectively" rated the same jobs quite differently. Indeed, the order of ranking of specific jobs was often inverted. Example: While Minnesota ranked a registered nurse, a chemist, and a social worker equally, Iowa found the nurse worth 29 percent more than the social worker, who in turn was worth 29 percent more than the chemist. Vermont reversed these ratings, paying the social worker 10 percent more than the nurse, who was paid 10 percent above the chemist. Burr concluded " comparable worth evaluations of jobs are anything but 'comparable' in practice."lg Mandate for Arbitrariness Such diverse rankings are generated under the camouflage of pseudo-scientific procedures in which a job is scored on a number of factors, such as m ental demands accountability and "working conditions These factors then are weighted" subjectively to determine their relative importance and the factor scores are combined to determine an overall pay level for the job. Writing in 77ze New Republic column i st Charles Krauthammer describes comp'arable worth science" in operation There is no need to belabor the absurdity of this system, so I'll stick to the high points. It is above all, a mandate for arbitrariness: every subjective determination, no matter ho w whimsically arrived at, is first enshrined in a number to give it an entirely specious solidity, then added to another number no less insubstantial, to yield a total entirely meaningless Who is to,say that a secretary's two years of college are equal in w orth to--and not half or double--the trucker's risk of getting killed on the highways?m 18 For a discussion of the differences between traditional and-"comparable.worth"-job evaluation, see US Office of Personnel Management, op. cit pp. 37-40 19 Richard E . Burr, Are Compamble Worth Systems Tmfv Comparable? Center for the Study of American Business, Washington University, St his, Formal Publication Number 75, July 1986 20 Charles Krauthammer, "From Bad to Worth The New Republic, July 30,1984, p. 17 9 The co m parable worth "experts of course. But the experts produce bizarre results. In Minnesota, for instance, some entry-level positions were ranked higher than senior positions, while some supervisors were.ranked lower than their subordinates. Typists were give n higher ratings than aircraft pilots on the "consequences of error factor?l Because pseudo-scientific comparable worth wage systems are purely subjective, it should not be surprising that they can produce wage rates widely at variance with market wages-se t by supply and demand In the famous Washington State comparable worth case which gave such an impetus to the movement worth experts" determined the following A registered nurse was assigned 573 points, the highest for any job rated; in contrast, a compute r systems analyst received only 426 points. In the market, however, computer systems analysts are among the highest paid professionals, earning 56 percent more than registered nurses.

Clerical supervisors received more evaluation points than chemists, even though the market pays chemists 41 percent more Truck drivers were rated below retail clerks although the market pays them 30 percent more. 22 The Likely Impact of Comparable Worth Legislation Economic models have indicated a nationwide comparable worth wage control policy could close the "pay gap" between men and women by 6 percentage points. These estimates are too high. They require eliminating inter-industry and inter-firm variation in wages.

Proposed comparable worth policies call only for adjusting male and female,wages within single firms A recent study by George Johnson and Gary Solon of the University of Michigan attempts to predict the impact of intra-firm comparable worth wage adjustments.

Johnson and Solon determined that comparable worth poli cy would close the pay gap by 21'Cited in testimony of the Honorable Susan Vergeront, member, Wisconsin State Assembly, on behalf of the National Association of Manufacturers before the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Services, Post Ofice and Civil Service on S. 552, Federal Employee Compensation Study Act of 1987, April 22,1987, p. 1 22 June O'Neill An Argument Against Comparable Worth in Comparable Worth: Issue for the 80's 23 Mark Aldrich and Robert Buchele, The Economics of Comparable Worth (Cambridge M a ss.: Ballinger PPI 1n-m Publishing Company, 1986), pp. 119-129 10 just 2 percentage points." Thus comparable worth might raise the female/male pay ratio today from 75 to 77 percent. Market forces alone, however, have narrowed the pay ratio from 69 to 75 p ercent over the last 10 years. The authors advise that even their modest estimate could be too high, because it reflects only the direct effects of wage regulations.

They warn that artificially raising wages in traditional female jobs such as clerical and service work in the long run could reduce the number of such jobs available. The result mounting female unemployment.25 The income loss for women workers who lose jo b s might well exceed the net income gain from higher wages among those who remain employed. 26 Maintaining Job Segregation. Ironically, comparable worth legislation would tend to crowd" women workers into traditional female-dominated occupations. The reaso n Mandating higher wages for traditional female jobs would discourage better educated women from entering professional and managerial positions. Meanwhile, artificially hiking wage rates would cause employers to reduce their hiring. Comparable worth would t hus slow down the upward flow of talented women into competitive professional fields, increase competition for a diminished number of traditional female jobs, and reduce employment opportunities for less-skilled female workers. Less-skilled female workers displaced from clerical and service positions will be unqualified for professional and technical jobs and unlikely to obtain better paying,blue collar jobs because of a lack of skills and their.own job preferences.

While comparable worth would bestow few if any benefits on the female work force, its impact on the overall economy would be devastating. A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research estimated that an economy-wide comparable worth policy would destroy between 2.8 million and 4 mil l ion jobs and slash the gross national product by up to $150 billion per year COMPARABLE WORTH LEGISLATION AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT The recent legislation introduced by Senators Evans and Cranston would create a commission to study comparable worth wages for the federal work force. Its proponents apparently see the study as a way to legitimize the principle of comparable worth and to popularize the notion that the market pays women unfairly 24 George Johnson and Gary Solon, Pay Differences Between Women's and Men's Jobs: nte Empirical.

Foundations of Compamble Worth Legislation, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc Working Paper No. 1472 produced in industries where those occupations predominate The price increasewill-reduce-consumer demand for those goods and services, resulting in a loss of employment. Artificial wage hikes also will cause employers to alter production modes, for example, using more capital equipment while hiring fewer female laborers 26 Net income loss would exceed income gain if t h e elasticity of demand for workers in traditional female jobs in regulated firms exceeds unity. See Johnson and Solon, op. cit p. 16 27 Perry C. Beider, Douglas Bernheh, Victor Fuchs, and John B. Shoven, Compamble Worth in u Geneml Equilibrium Model of th e U.S. Economy, National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 2090 25 For example, raising wages in traditional female occupations will raise prices for goods and services 11 Wave of Litigation If the ''study commission" is created and if itldecl a res, as likely to do given its expected political complexion, that market wages are discriminatory, the next step will be to impose comparable worth on the private sector. A bill doing this (S. 5) in fact already has.been introduced in the Senate. E x plains Representative Mary Rose Oakar an Ohio Democrat and a fervent backer of the Evans-Cranston S.552 private corporations and small businesses will not feel compelled to reexamine their pay and classification systems if the Federal government is not co m mitted to eliminating sex-based discrimination Even if second-phase bills do not pass immediately, the declaration by a federal commission that market-based wages are discriminatory will trigger an explosive wave of litigation against private sector emplo y ers across the country Knowing the controversy which surrounds the concept of "comparable. worth S.552 actually avoids the term altogether, instead calling vaguely for a study "to promote equitable pay practices in the federal government Supporters make d e liberate efforts to confuse their proposal with the widely endorsed "equal pay for equal work" concept, which assures for example, that male and female lawyers who perform identical work are paid the same wage. But no one should be fooled. S.552 is a comp a rable worth bill and has nothing to do with equal pay for equal work, which already is the law two flawed methodologies, both rooted in the comparable worth doctrine. The,first is wage gap" analysis. The second involves comparable worth job evaluation of t he sort utilized in Washington State. This type of job evaluation deliberately eschews objective market wages, allowing evaluators to assign any subjective value they wish to female jobs. It would not be difficult for a commission of carefully selected co m parable worth proponents to llprovell that the existing federal salary system underpays women To guarantee that outcome, S.552 carefully specifies that a majority of the members of the study commission will represent groups which already support comparabl e worth ideology The Evans-Cranston bill directs the commission to study federal pay rates on the basis of CONCLUSION A time when the U.S. seeks to compete more effectively with the goods and services of other countries is no time to flirt with a national policy designed to cut the salaries of overpaid" engineers, scientists, and skilled manufacturing workers to raise the pay of typists and retail clerks. Yet this is precisely what comparable worth policy proposes to do.

At the heart of the debate over comp arable worth are questions concerning the basic structure of the American economy. As its proponents contend, "comparable worth as public policy would transfer the power to set wages for individual jobsfrom the business to the regulatory arena But the fou ndations of the comparable woith doctrine are brittle.

The claim that the market systematically undervalues wages for traditional female jobs is unsupported by the evidence. Moreover, the results for women would be very different 28 Aldrich and Buchele, op . cit p. 175 12 from those forecast by comparable worth advocates. The advance of women into professional and technical careers would slow, and female unemployment would rise.

Even if discriminatory "crowding" does occur at present in the labor market, co mparable worth would exacerbate the problem and cause the status of women in the work force to deteriorate. Congress should shun the phony economics of comparable worth and its reliance on bureaucratically determined wage controls.

Robert Rector Policy Analyst 13


Robert Rector
Robert Rector

Senior Research Fellow