Report: Obama official apologizes for misleading rhetoric on gender pay gap

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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An Obama economic adviser apologized for the claim that women earn only 77 cents for ever dollar a man earns for “identical work.”

Betsey Stevenson, a member of the Council of Economic Advisers, provided the context ahead of the Obama administration’s planned commemoration of “Equal Pay Day,” an event to highlight wage disparities between men and women.

“They’re stuck at 77 cents on the dollar, and that gender wage gap is seen very persistently across the income distribution, within occupations, across occupations, and we see it when men and women are working side by side doing identical work,” Stevenson said initially during the conference call, the Washington Examiner reports.

But one reporter present on the conference call pressed Stevenson on the claim that men and women are paid drastically different wages for doing the exact same jobs.

“If I said 77 cents was equal pay for equal work, then I completely misspoke,” Stevenson said, reports the Examiner. “So let me just apologize and say that I certainly wouldn’t have meant to say that.”

Supporters of Equal Pay Day say that the average woman must work all of 2013 and through April 8, 2014 in order to earn the same amount as the average man.

“Seventy-seven cents captures the annual earnings of full-time, full-year women divided by the annual earnings of full-time, full-year men,” said Stevenson, according to the Examiner. “There are a lot of things that go into that 77-cents figure, there are a lot of things that contribute and no one’s trying to say that it’s all about discrimination, but I don’t think there’s a better figure.

Many liberals have touted the 77 cent figure as evidence of discrimination against women, despite ample research refuting the claim.

The widely-cited number is taken from the Department of Labor Statistics and compares full-time female workers’ wages to those of full-time male workers.

But the pay gap narrows considerably when other factors are taken into consideration. One study from 2009 conducted by CONSAD and contracted by the Department of Labor found that when occupation and industry choice, career interruption and work experience are taken into consideration, women only earn between 4.8 and 7.1 percent less than men.

A 2007 study conducted by two Cornell economists pegged the gender pay gap at 91 cents on the dollar. Another study that looked at MBA graduates found that nearly all of an observed 40 percent gap between male and female graduates’ salaries was due to women working fewer hours and experiencing more career interruptions.

The Obama administration rarely ventures away from the 77 cent rhetoric when discussing salary and gender.

“You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns,” President Obama said at the State of the Union earlier this year. “That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. Women deserve equal pay for equal work.”

The 2012 Obama presidential campaign made similar claims in an ad.

“The son of a single mom, proud father of two daughters, President Obama knows that women being paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men isn’t just unfair, it hurts families,” the ad stated.

Stevenson, an economics professor at the University of Michigan and a former chief economist at the Department of Labor, was joined by Valerie Jarrett, a special adviser to Obama. Stevenson also spoke about the gender pay gap at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

On Tuesday, Obama signed two executive actions to commemorate Equal Pay Day. One will protect workers at companies with federal contracts from retaliation for discussing pay. The second action requires the department of labor to collect pay information from federal contractors, broken down by race and gender.

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