The wage gap… it’s complicated

27 Sep

Back to the bake sale proposed by Cal’s Campus Republicans (see the 9/26/11 post).

The students proposed a pricing structure as follows: $2.00 for white men, $1.50 for Asian men, $1.00 for Latino men, $0.75 for black men and $0.25 for Native American men–with women getting $0.25 off the male-pegged prices for their demographic group.

While the students intend to make a point about racial minorities and women “getting a break” (by The Man, I suppose–who else?), I’m interested in a secondary statement they are making:

In short, that a woman’s status is defined in relation to a man’s.

According to the Campus Republicans’ logic, women’s experience is tied directly to that of the men in their racial demographic, and the divide between men and women is a uniform, pan-racial constant.

While this makes for a neat and tidy way to “include” women in the bake sale and the social statement it intends to make,  reality is a little more complicated than that. You simply can’t subtract 25 cents from a male-standard to define the place or (dis)advantage of women.

Before I continue, let’s acknowledge that various studies and all sorts of analyses have been done on the wage differences between women and men, within and across racial groups. As a result, you can find conflicting results. So this is not to present The Truth about sex, race and income in the US, but to present some of the nuances:

  • Citing the US Census Bureau, Dr. Hilary Lips of Radford University notes that while men across racial groups tend to outearn the women in their own racial groups, the wage gap is largest between white men and women. In 2001, for example, white women earned 73.4% of what white men earned; in the same year, black women earned 84.8% of what black men earned. Latinas tend to fare the best, in terms of closing the wage gap with Latinos, while Asian women do only slightly better than white women in matching the earnings of the men in their groups.
  • Psychology Today contributor Dr. Linda Young’s research reveals that the overall trend of men outearning women isn’t absolute: citing the 2009 Census, Young points out that in the $100,000 and over income bracket, black women outnumber black men–by over 1.5 times. While there are 157 black women for every 100 black men earning over $100,000, there are approximately 450 white men for every 100 white women in this income bracket.

So it would seem that the Campus Republicans might do well to pull out their calculators before printing up their bake sale prices, if they really want to promote social awareness and not just stereotypes.


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