Comparable Worth: Part One

February 11, 1999

Bad ideas never die; they just get recycled to presidential speeches. At least thatís what seems to have happened with the idea of comparable worth. On Saturday, President Clinton announced a $14 million Equal Pay Initiative and called for passage of Senator Tom Daschleís Paycheck Fairness Act. The president declared that, "Today women earn about 75 cents for every dollar a man earns."

Comparable worth was a hot political item in the 1980s but never went too far because of some stubborn facts. President Clintonís claim that women earn only 75 cents to a manís dollar is based on a crude comparison of wages. Take all of womenís wages in America and divide those by all the menís salaries and you get the presidentís number. But there are some obvious reasons for that apparent disparity. Women often have less work experience and are more likely to choose a job that gives them flexibility to combine work and family. They may also wish to have greater flexibility to leave the work force to bear and raise children. Countless studies and think tanks have shown that when adjustments are made for age, experience, education, occupation, etc., the wage disparity vanishes.

Donít forget that it is already illegal to pay unequal wages to equally qualified men and women who do the same job. And when that occurs, women sue and win these discrimination lawsuits.

What President Clinton wants is for the government to mandate equal pay for jobs of comparable worth. This idea has been routinely rejected in the courts, but the president wants to enforce it through the bureaucracy. Comparable worth is a bad idea that died a natural death in the 1980s. We donít need its resurrection in 1999.

Iím Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and thatís my opinion.

© 1999 Probe Ministries International