Heidi Hartmann is a feminist economist who is founder and president of the Washington-based Institute for Women's Policy Research, a research organization created to conduct women-centered, public policy research.
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Hi reddit, I’m Heidi Hartmann, President of the Washington-based Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR), a scientific research organization that I founded in 1987 to meet the need for women-centered, policy-oriented research.
Today, in advance of Women’s Equality Day on August 26th, I’m here to talk about the Wage Gap, an accurate measure of the inequality in earnings between women and men who work full time, year round in the labor market. The Wage Gap reflects a number of different factors: discrimination in pay, recruitment, job assignment, and promotion; lower earnings in occupations mainly done by women; and women’s disproportionate share of time spent on family care, including that they—rather than fathers—still tend to be the ones to take more time off work when families have children. The Wage Gap is multi-faceted and worth delving into in depth.
Here’s a link to some of the research my organization, the IWPR, has published: https://iwpr.org/publications/
A bit about me, I lecture internationally on women, economics, and public policy, I’ve testified before the U.S. Congress, and I’m often cited as an authority in various media outlets, such as CNN, ABC News, The New York Times, and PBS NewsHour about this topic and others. I’m a co-author of several IWPR reports, including Women’s and Men’s Employment and Unemployment in the Great Recession; Still A Man’s Labor Market: The Long-Term Earnings Gap; Unnecessary Losses: Costs to Americans of the Lack of Family and Medical Leave; Equal Pay for Working Families, and Strengthening Social Security for Women. I’ve also served as the Chair of the Board of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.
I was named a MacArthur Fellow in 1994, and the MacArthur Foundation said that I’ve “released a number of pathbreaking reports on low-wage women, welfare policy, women and self-employment, family and medical leave, pay equity, and women’s union status.
I’m excited to take your questions. Ask me anything!
EDIT: I'll be on at 11am ET to take your questions, but ask away.
SECOND EDIT: I'm live now. Ask me anything!
FINAL EDIT: That's it for me today, I appreciate the thoughtful questions. You can read more about our the Wage Gap in our research here: https://iwpr.org/publications/
I'd like to discuss your page on "Five Ways to Win an Argument about the Gender Wage Gap" as I assume these are the arguments you'll be using here.
1) Other data series on weekly or hourly earnings are not necessarily more accurate than the annual figure.
You say the following:
>Both the weekly and annual earnings ratios are for full-time workers only; if part-time and part-year workers were included, the ratios of women’s to men’s earnings would be even lower
The current BLS statistics for part-time wage/salary workers put median weekly earnings for men 16 and over at $257, while women 16 and over have median weekly earnings of $265. Perhaps the earnings ratios you look at are for only full-time workers, but it's silly to say that part-time data doesn't exist.
2) The annual wage ratio of 80 percent is actually a moderate estimate of gender pay inequality. Women of color fare much worse.
You focus on these statistics to highlight your point:
>For most women of color, the gender wage gap is even more severe. Black women’s median annual earnings were just 63.3 percent of White men’s earnings, and Hispanic/Latina women earned 54.4 percent of what White men earned annually. Only Asian women, who earned 84.5 percent of what White men earned, fall above the 80 percent figure.
While you do also include the fact that women of all racial/ethnic groups earn less than men in the same racial/ethnic group, you also fail to mention that the spread between men/women in their respective group is far lower than that of white men vs. women of that group. Stratifying by pure statistics like this can lead to some interesting results, but it's only made worse by cherrypicking demographics for comparison.
3) Women’s ‘choices’ are not necessarily choices.
>For instance, a library assistant may choose to go to school for 6 more years to become a librarian, or she may choose to go to school for half that and become an IT support specialist, if she knew that librarians and IT support specialists were paid roughly the same per year.
That's just a silly argument. If anyone could go to school for half the time to make the same amount, of course they'd make that choice. There are ways to frame this choice argument effectively, but I don't think you really did that.
4) There is no proof that being a mother makes a woman less productive on the job.
Among other things, the study that you cite says the following in the abstract:
>Results show that having children inflicts the largest penalty on low-wage women, proportionately, although a significant motherhood penalty persists at all earnings levels . . . Among highly paid women, by contrast, the motherhood penalty is significantly smaller and largely explained by lost human capital due to childbearing.
You argue that there is no indication of lost productivity due to motherhood, but the study that you cite explicitly says that lost human capital due to childbearing largely explains the discrepancy among highly paid women. Similarly, lost human capital would likely be more of a concern among low-wage women due to a general lack of flexibility in terms of working remotely and similar accommodations.
5) Discrimination is still a factor—a big one—in the gender wage gap.
You say the following:
>But it is just as likely that discrimination affects these ‘control’ variables as well as the size of the remaining gap. Peer reviewed literature surveys published in mainstream economics journals, including a recent study by Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn estimate that 38 percent of the gross wage gap remains unexplained
Sure, discrimination could be factor as you say, but it's also equally likely that 100 other things affect the issue.
If possible, I'd really appreciate you addressing my critiques of your main argument and telling me where I'm going wrong.
E: Could you confirm that you're not related to /u/ermagetton16 or /u/latinxtaco? The accounts were created right around the time of this post and began engaging to support you after you were repeatedly challenged.
Well this is a long question and surely everything in life can be done better and I'm sure IWPR can improve as well. Let me start with number one. We never say data on Part time workers are not available, we say if the data on them were included with the full-time workers the wage gap between the genders would be even larger because many more women work part time than men do, and naturally those who work part time typically earn less than those who work more hours (full-time). The data who cite which I don't have time to verify but let's assume is correct shows part-time women workers earn more than part-time male workers--this could be because they work more hours or in higher level jobs than men who work part time--I've not personally taken a look at the data on part time workers in a while, so can't say more now. But yes we included data on part time workers in many of our studies.
On question 2, yes the gender wage gap is more severe for women of color groups compared with white men than it typically is with men of their own race/ethnic group and this is because men from minority groups are also discriminated against. For example in the fact sheet linked to already in another answer we point out that black women earn 89.3% of black men's earnings but only 68.0 percent of white men's earnings. Unfortunately our labor market has both race-based and gender-based wage and employment discrimination. We tend to emphasize rather than hide these facts.
Let me address number four, the penalties on mothers being discussed there for being a mother are comparing mothers with women who are not mothers, so holding education and work experience constant. Even given those similarities mothers are paid less women who have not had children with the amount less being largest for women in lower end jobs as indicated by the question. But when comparing these two groups of similar women no data in the Budig and Hodges article cited provides information on productivity differences on the job between them. The point about the mothers having lower productivity is about their often getting less education due to child bearing--but the authors do not compare a less educated group of mothers to a more educated group of non mothers to calculate the motherhood penalty.In fact they say mothers have more seniority and job experience than nonmothers so in that regard they should be more productive at work, but as noted the authors compare likes with likes (see the second half of the paper for this analysis).
Finally part 5 of this question. Yes it's a judgment call as to how much of the wage gap is due to employer-based discrimination but each year the US DOL makes determinations and the EEOC wins judgments in the courts that find discrimination often resulting in back wage payments to women workers and men of color. What even the "gross" wage gap tells us is that women take home a lot less money than men for an equal day's work--typically 8 hours for full time. They work just as hard; most believe women are as smart as men, and it causes a great deal of poverty among children whose moms are breadwinners. So if we want to increase fairness or reduce poverty, we should be moving toward more equal pay for women, including mothers. Paid family leave for men and women, subsidized or costless child care are ways to get there in addition to stronger equal pay enforcement. Right now dozens of efforts to improve pay discrimination laws and to gain paid sick days, and paid family leave, are occurring around the country. Efforts are being made nationally as well and hopefully in the next 5-10 years we will see much greater progress in closing the wage gap than we have seen in the past 10-15 years.
So, like...you're here to talk about fan-fiction or something?
>Really get a life!
Is telling me to "get a life" part of "how to win an argument on the wage gap"? There is absolutely no reason that the head of an institute that came to discuss the wage-gap should be unfamiliar with quarterly figures on part-time wages.
There is no reason you should be questioning my bonafides simply because I said I had personally not looked at these particular data recently but went on to say we do look at part time wages in our studies. I felt you were rude and disrespectful to me and I responded. It would be great to keep the discussion on a higher plane. I have a phd in economics from Yale University and have been studying women in the labor market since I started graduated school quite a few decades ago. This is why so many women give up on the web because of these kinds of conversations.
I feel like the wage-gap topic is now peppered with more language qualifying the data to reflect social issues, personal choices and the effect or marriage/kid choices than simply what employers are being paid.
Would you say that the wage gap is symptomatic of all of these things, and if so, what, if any, solution is there, other than telling woman not to fulfill these roles in family life?
On the contrary, if the wage gap exists purely due to employer-designed preferences, is there any data that shows this point explicitly? As in comparing a male and female worker of similar education and experience, working 40 hour a week jobs, 52 weeks in the year.
As a pretty forward thinking guy, I've always assumed that the wage gap existed in some form or fashion in a lot of places. However, being older now and more experienced in the work force, it seems that every time new data comes out there are a ton of qualifiers and it seems that it's less about women being paid less, but more about them choosing to earn less for want of a family, child etc...I'd like to be more educated on the topic as I feel it's taken on new meaning recently.
I agree with you that the language is more ambiguous than it used to be, probably because more and more research has been done. But the gold standard studies will typically follow say a class of MBA's who graduated in the same group of years and they find that in the first few years men and women earn similarly though women still earn less; as time goes on women earn a lot less whether they marry and have kids or not. So I think the research shows employers still have a lot to do with underpaying women. Google has just come under fire from a federal agency claiming they are paying women in the same jobs less than men. But family issues do make a difference and one way to deal with those is more equitable sharing between men and women AND government policies that support caregiving through paid family leave and subsidized (even free) child care--countries that have all those supports, including paid family leave for men, have much smaller wage gaps than we do in the US.
Although I think there's an argument to be made on the inclusion of part-time numbers, I will concede that you didn't explicitly say the data was unavailable. However, this is pretty troubling to me:
>The data who cite which I don't have time to verify . . . I've not personally taken a look at the data on part time workers in a while, so can't say more now
I cited directly to the BLS (you can click the link to be taken directly to the page), so I don't believe it needs independent verification due to its credibility and the fact that your organization personally cites the BLS countless times.
Similarly, for someone whose life's work is the wage gap, I really struggle to understand how you wouldn't be intimately familiar with the latest data on part-time workers.
I said I assumed it was true, in quoting me you left that out. Really get a life!
Of course I am not intimately familiar with the millions of data points on women's and men's wages available from the federal government. There are data on hourly, weekly, and annual earnings for each year and in many cases each month, and for more than 500 occupations. Glad you looked up the part time data and informed us.
If it's true that women aged between 22-29 earn more than men. Are you suggesting that women are only discriminated against, or paid less for the same job after 30? If so could you explain this?
Also, could you explain why men between those ages don't earn as much. Is it because of discrimination?
While I've not done a thorough study of everything going on with this age group we do have data on millenial women and men in our Status of Women in the States report which you can find on our website. Young women are more likely to have graduated from college and that undoubtedly affects the gross wage gap. There likely are cases where any individual can be discriminated against for various reasons but only some of those reasons are protected by law, for example, national origin and religion, as well as race and gender.
Can you name 1 company that is paying women less than men for the same job?
named Google as recently accused by the federal govt as paying women less in the same jobs. Many employers have been found to owe back pay for this, check the DOL website for their back pay awards from employers every year.
The whole part about choices in that article is really silly. Saying a woman doesn't know what courses she could take to earn a certain wage. Well either those women didn't consider their course well enough, or they chose the course they wanted.
Is it suggesting that by comparison men are aware of how each course will pay off and the time it takes to complete but this is somehow kept from women? Adding irrelevant assumptions like this really doesn't do well for the legitimacy of the conclusions.
This is related to question 3 so I'll try to respond to both. Actually research shows very few men or women know what occupations pay when they make their career choices. They are much more likely to choose based on what they see their parents or adults in their community doing, they are influenced by comments from teachers and guidance counselors, and by what their peers are doing. One young women who worked for us said that in high school she took every computer aided design class offered; all the boys taking these same classes were encouraged to study engineering in college by the high school teachers; she never was. She made it into engineering because a neighbor worked as an engineer and arranged for her to do an internship at his place of work. She liked the work and got an engineering degree and worked as an engineer. In fact most people who work in the fields of job training and education think their fields could be doing a better job of sharing what work is like in those fields and what it pays.
>There is absolutely no reason that the head of an institute that came to discuss the wage-gap should be unfamiliar with quarterly figures on part-time wages.
What part of that said they should know EVERYTHING. It sounds like a valid criticism to me.
Suit yourself poopytime!
Can you say a little bit more about the MacArthur Foundation and/or what it was like to be named a MacArthur Fellow? What's the one thing you think would surprise people most about the MacArthur experience?
Well it was definitely a shock--I was surprised and speechless when I received the phone call, so much so that the person who called me asked me if I was Okay. It was about 7 years after I started IWPR and we were still quite small and fledgling so it was a great boon to get the recognition and publicity that comes with winning the award. In my case the New York Times did a full page story about a feminist economist winning a MacArthur. I definitely was floating for several weeks and whenever I get down I still think about the wonderfulness of that recognition. Perhaps people don't realize that the funds come with no strings attached and arrive over 5 years; as one other fellow said, after the five years it feels like falling off the cliff because that money is no longer coming in. Of course one could save it and not have that problem. In our case we invested in our kids' college education, in IWPR, and in some other things. Also the money is taxable which is one reason, I imagine, that the Foundation spreads it out over five years.
That does make sense, but I could selectively frame the data in the same manner to back any point that I'd like. As a simple example using these BLS stats:
>White women earn more than black and hispanic men.
The more you attempt to twist the demographics to fit your intended the conclusion, the less relevance they have to the point you're trying to make. If that's your intention to reach a desired conclusion through your selective emphasis then that's fine, but comparing white men with women of color ignores so many potentially alternate variables that it's effectively meaningless.
These results do vary year by year so many years white women do not earn more than black men for example but they are all valid stories that the data tell us. They are not being twisted. That's why we publish all the relevant data in our fact sheets so people can draw their own conclusions.
What actions do you think should be taken to ensure equality of earnings between genders?
Some of my other responses discuss some of what can be done, better counseling about what jobs require and what they pay; more encouragement of women to pursue nontraditional (and higher paying) fields in school and the labor market; new laws on pay discrimination and stronger enforcement; paid family leave for men and women; paid sick days for all workers; free or subsidized child care and after school programs, as well as help with elder care. Other factors like more labor unions and collective bargaining, a higher minimum wage, and bringing back attention to comparable worth (equal pay for equally difficult but not necessarily the same jobs), plus much more attention to racial and ethnic discrimination, as well as discrimination against queer or transgender workers. All these are important. Not to mention more equitable sharing of housework and child care among men and women.
Since part time workers make up a large percentage of the US work force, shouldn't an expert doing an AMA on the subject be able to speak to the numbers here?
I did speak to them, I said including them makes the wage gap larger.
How do you think the wage gap applies to women of color? It feels like women of color are often left out of the conversation when it comes to this topic.
Also, what does the wage gap look like for anyone who isn't a white male? Though your research may not cover it, any insight would be helpful. Thank you!
We do a lot of this work at IWPR. Twice per year we report on the wage data when it comes out from the US Department of Labor. It always shows much larger gaps between black and Hispanic women vis a vis white men than white women vs. white men. For example in weekly earnings for 2016, white women earned 81.6% of what white men earned for fulltime year round work, while for black women it was only 68% and Latina women 62.2% Asian American women did better at 95.8%. Black men earn $718 per week, white men $942 per week and Hispanic men $663. For black women it's $641 per week and Hispanic women $$586. The media is reporting racial and ethnic differences more often, especially around equal pay days for Black women and Hispanic and Native American women. Here are some cites from IWPR. Thanks for your very important question.
Are you aware that being an expert on a topic does not mean that you have every single data point memorized? She wasn't exaggerating when she said there are millions of data points related to this.
Does it ever frustrate you how insistent people are about denying the wage gap? Do you find that critics tend to discount your research because it is explicitly focused on women?
Yes, very frustrated. We call them wage gap deniers within the office. Because most of us at IWPR are women and we work on women and women are generally devalued in our society, especially as leaders, we do sometimes find our work is devalued. However, we have worked very hard to do mainstream social science research and disseminate research findings that are relatively unimpeachable and as a result most media and policy makers regard our research as being sound and reliable.