Miss Utah Was Right the First Time

It was the answer heard round the world — well, at least it was the answer heard around all the gossipy news shows, which in today???s media means every major network news show. The answer here was the convoluted, off topic and rambling response by Miss USA pageant contestant Miss Utah Marissa Powell.

When the extremely attractive Powell (just this writer???s opinion) was asked a question about the so-called ???income inequality??? between men and women and what it says about society, she basically froze up, stumbled, paused for a painfully long time and uttered a confusing and uncomfortably amusing line about how we need to ???create better education.???

Now, as painful and incoherent as Powell???s answer was, at least she didn???t accept the faulty premise the question was rooted in.

She did, however, do just that during her second stab at the question a few days later on NBC???s Today Show. Here she was asked the same question by host Matt Lauer that she received during the Miss USA pageant. Here???s how the exchange went:

Lauer asked, ???A recent report shows that in 40% of American families with children, women are the primary earners, yet they continue to earn less than men. What does it say about society????

Powell???s response was, ???This is not OK. It needs to be equal pay for equal work. It???s hard enough already to earn a living, and it shouldn???t be harder just because you???re a woman.???

The faulty premise I???m referring to here is the common misconception — perpetrated by social justice groups, women???s groups, the media and left-wing politicians such as President Obama — that women earn less money for doing the same jobs that men do. Moreover, the corollary implication here is that the so-called wage gap is due to some type of pernicious discrimination on the part of a knuckle-dragging male corporate America.

We often hear figures such as ???women earn 77 cents of what men do.??? Well, that is true if you do a broad statistical comparison of the median wage of a full-time working woman with the median wage of a full-time working man. However, when you do an apples-to-apples comparison of workers who do the same job, and who have the same educational experience and the same number of years doing that job, there is virtually no difference in pay between men and woman.

Indeed, the myth of pay inequality was debunked as far back as 1995 by my hometown newspaper, the decidedly left-wing Los Angeles Times in a piece titled ???Women???s Choices, Not Bias, Blamed for Lower Earnings.???

The article cited a study by the Pacific Research Institute which found that ???women lag behind men because they move in and out of the workforce to care for children, and tend to choose lower-paying careers than men.??? The article also said that ???wage disparity narrows as factors distinguishing the sexes are removed.???

The Los Angeles Times also cited U.S. Labor Department economist Tom Nardone, who said ???the wage gap appears to shrink when differences in age, education, marriage, tenure and field of work are excluded.???

In other words, the reason for any general pay disparity has almost everything to do with women???s choices, and very little to do with discrimination.

Well, not much has changed since 1995. According to a 2009 Department of Labor commissioned report, ???This study leads to the unambiguous conclusion that the differences in the compensation of men and women are the result of a multitude of factors and that the raw wage gap should not be used as the basis to justify corrective action. Indeed, there may be nothing to correct. The differences in raw wages may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers.???

Let???s just get real here. The fact is that men are more likely than women to pursue jobs that pay more money, have higher stress levels, are more dangerous and that require more hours than women. Women are more apt to choose careers that pay less but offer greater flexibility, are less physically dangerous and less physically demanding. Yes, I realize there are tens of thousands of exceptions to this general rule, but the general rule applies even if some don???t like it.

So, the real answer to the Miss USA pageant question about what women earning less money than men says about society is this: women and men make different choices that lead to different results.

And while I wouldn???t expect Miss Utah to answer this question the same way I have, I wish she wouldn???t have given a politically correct, bromide of an answer to the repeated query by Matt Lauer. I would have been a bigger fan of hers if she would have just stuck with her original answer.

Jim Woods is Editor-at-Large of You can follow him on Twitter: @Woodsish.