Re: [sixties-l] Re: break new ground sixties and rightwing

From: Jo Freeman (
Date: 10/04/00

  • Next message: "[sixties-l] History of Women in North America"

       I'm afraid a course in Economics 101 won't help much in understanding the
     pay differential between men and women.  An advanced Economics course would
    help a bit, but one in US social history (or women's studies emphasizing econo
      mic history) would help more.
          First, a confession.... I haven't emersed myself in this stuff since I
     finished editing the fifth (and last) edition of my textbook WOMEN: A FEMINIST
     PERSPECTIVE in 1993, but I doubt these generalizations have changed much since
      then, though the details might have.
         The much tossed around figure that women only earn X % of what men earn
      is misleading.   The number computed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics says
     that the median annual income of full time working women is X % of the median
    annual income of full time working men. (X has varied over time.)  This doesn't
      say much about what and why women are paid compared to men, but it does tell
      us a lot about the economic resources of women, as a group, compared to men,
     as a group.
          It tells us nothing about the comparative wages of women who truly have
     equal work with that of men.  Comparing "equal pay" for "equal work" is very
     hard since for the most part women do not have the same jobs as men.  There
      have been a lot of studies in the last 30 years which hve tried to focus in
      on real comparative wages by micro studies which control as much as possible
      for industry, region, job level, experience, education, and anything else
     which can be quantified and might effect wage level.  To generalize, one can
      account for about half of the wage disparity between men and women by elimina
      ting other possible factors.  That leaves about half which can't be accounted
     for (again, I'm generalizing; the actual numbers vary).  Most economists see
      this portion as due to discrimination.
        This is where one needs a course in social history.  Prior to the emergence
      of the new feminist movement in the late 1960s, paying women less than men
      was socially acceptable, even though it was also illegal in those fields
     covered by state and federal equal pay laws.  The assumption that men supp
     orted families and women worked for pin money was pervasive.   Where it was
     not prohibited by law, union contracts often  required different pay rates,
     or had different job lines with the male jobs slightly different than those
     in the female line so that the men could be paid more.   In the traditioanl
     female professions, (teaching, social work etc.) men were recruited for the
     specific purpose of raising the overall pay rate.    The historical legacy
     and the social assumptions about women and their proper roles created a
     pattern whose effects are still with us.
      Nonetheless, the problem is not equal pay for equal work.  The problem is
     equal access to jobs that pay more.  We also need to pay more to jobs which
      require high levels of skill, but which have traditionally been underpaid
     because they were mostly done by women.
        Solving these is not easy, because we still expect women to shoulder the
     primary burden of family care, with its resultant demands on time and availabi
     lity.  The achivement of the feminist movement is that we now recognize this
      as a problem whereas before it was what God and nature ordained.
      (Rowman and Littlefield, 2000), and the forthcoming EDUCATION AT BERKELEY: A

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : 10/04/00 EDT