Fox News host Tucker Carlson spun new research on the gender pay gap that finds the gap widens for women with children to claim it’s acceptable to pay women less than men because that’s the price of biology. Carlson is a professional sexist who has repeatedly dismissed the gender pay gap, which puts over 70 million women working in the United States at a disadvantage in the workforce.
On May 13, New York Times correspondent Claire Cain Miller published an article, titled “The Gender Pay Gap Is Largely Because of Motherhood,” outlining the findings of two upcoming studies on the gender wage gap, which conclude that the earnings potential of American women falls in comparison to men as a result of both marriage and motherhood. According to the Times, research from economists Sari Kerr of Wellesley College, Claudia Goldin of Harvard University, Claudia Olivetti of Boston College, and Erling Barth of the Institute for Social Research in Oslo, finds the pay gap between men and women expands as a result of an unequal division of labor outside the workplace that results in women being more likely to pick up “more of the household chores and child care” than their husbands, as well as women being more likely to sacrifice their careers for the sake of their partners. From the Times:
The big reason that having children, and even marrying in the first place, hurts women’s pay relative to men’s is that the division of labor at home is still unequal, even when both spouses work full time. That’s especially true for college-educated women in high-earning occupations: Children are particularly damaging to their careers.
But even married women without children earn less, research shows, because women are more likely to give up job opportunities to either move or stay put for their husband’s job. Married women might also take less intensive jobs in preparation for children, or employers might not give them more responsibility because they assume they’ll have babies and take time off. [. . .]
It is logical for couples to decide that the person who earns less, usually a woman, does more of the household chores and child care, Ms. Kerr said. But it’s also a reason women earn less in the first place. “That reinforces the pay gap in the labor market, and we’re trapped in this self-reinforcing cycle,” she said.
These new findings add to volumes of existing evidence on the gender pay gap, including research previously highlighted by Miller, who wrote in March 2016 about data showing the professional contribution of women “simply isn’t valued as highly” as work done by men. Indeed, Miller noted that average pay in a particular industry or job sector tends to stagnate or drop when women enter that field — “for the very same jobs that more men were doing before.”
The nuances and caveats that determine the complex social interactions affecting men’s and women’s salaries were lost on Fox News, which instead used the Times report to dismiss the gender wage gap. Fox’s Tucker Carlson used the news — in a classic example of not reading past the headline — to absurdly claim that the Times “has finally admitted that the gender pay gap has nothing to do with sexism,” and bemoaned a supposed lack of “honesty” from the Times “during the eight years of Obama’s terms when demands to eliminate the sexism-based pay gap were never-ending.”
Carlson’s declaration of victory ignores a mountain of academic evidence that has concluded women face steep pay inequities compared to men in the U.S. In 2015, the Economic Policy Institute published an analysis showing that women earn less than men across the income spectrum. Similarly, according to data compiled by Glassdoor, the gender gap persists even after accounting for all other professional characteristics. The spring 2017 edition of the American Association of University Women’s (AAUW) gender pay gap report found that “women working full time in the United States typically were paid just 80 percent of what men were paid” in 2015. While the gap “has narrowed since 1960,” women are not expected to “reach pay parity with men” until 2059. The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) found that the persistent wage gap as it stood in 2015 would result in an average American woman earning over $400,000 less than an average man “over the course of a 40-year career.” According to a November 2016 report from NWLC, the pay gap for American mothers is even more stark: “Mothers who work outside the home full time, year round typically make just 71 cents for every dollar paid to fathers.”
Despite the facts, Fox News has long promoted the myth that the gender pay gap doesn’t exist or is the result of women’s choices in the workplace. Carlson in particular has a history of using his Fox program as a vehicle for misleading characterizations of the movement for pay equity. Even before the notoriously sexist Carlson was promoted to his new prime-time perch, he used his appearances on other Fox programs to proclaim that “women get paid exactly what they’re worth” and bemoan the supposed persecution of working men.