Last week there was a brief flurry of interest in the idea of comparable worth – the idea that the law should require that women and men working similar jobs should earn the same salaries. This idea was popular in the 1980s as feminists tried to get legislation passed to erase what they saw as a big wage gap between what women and men earn. Someone in the government would work out equivalency tables and decide which jobs were comparable – perhaps laundry workers and garbage men. Fortunately, this idea was shot down and never enacted into law. John Roberts was one of those ridiculing that idea. Ironically, one of the senators who will vote on his nomination, Olympia Snowe, was one of the congresswomen he was ridiculing when he called comparable worth a “pernicious and anti-capitalist” idea.
Since Congress passed legislation in 1963 and 1964, it has been illegal to discriminate against women by paying them less for the same job. But, statistics still seem to show women earning less than men. Why is that?
My husband, an economist and blogger, explains what economists have to say about comparable worth and how to explain the wage gap. Read his explanation and you’ll be able to answer anyone who brings up these sorts of arguments.
It would almost be a gift to Judge Roberts to have the Judiciary Committee examine him about his opposition to comparable worth. He should be able to knock that softball out of the park.
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