The Ottumwa Courier

Letters to the Editor

April 21, 2012

Loebsack's numbers for equal pay are misleading his constituents

OTTUMWA — Today I received an email that Rep. Dave Loebsack has sent to his constituents talking about equal pay. He used the same figure that one often hears, saying women earn 77 cents for each dollar men earn and the reason is unequal pay. That figure is misleading.

It would certainly be a number to cause great concern if men and women made identical career choices. But, for various reasons, they do not. Many women take years away from their field of endeavor to raise children. There is absolutely nothing wrong about that, but it naturally causes them to fall behind in the progression of knowledge in the field and to lose valuable years of experience.  

Even within similar fields, there are differences. In medicine, for example, more women choose pediatrics and more men choose surgery. Becoming a surgeon requires more years of expensive training, and so it is only natural that it pays more. Far more men also choose jobs that pay more because they are physically strenuous or dangerous. Women are overrepresented in the social sciences, while more men choose the math or engineering sciences. Men are also more likely to choose salaried jobs that entail many more than 40 hours a week. These are just a few of the different choices men and women make.

When controlling for all of these factors, and others, by selecting men and women who work the same number of hours in the exact same jobs for the same number of years with identical training, the pay gap disappears.

I am disappointed that an elected representative would fail to properly educate himself on the issue before making such a misleading statement.

Randall Bradley

Ottumwa business owner

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