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LETTER: Don't blame discrimination for 'pay gap'

In his recent column, U.S. Senate candidate Eliot Glassheim talked about several "family" issues ("North Dakota's senator can do more for families," Page A4, Sept. 7).

I would like to address one such issue: equal pay. The term is something of a misnomer once one actually gets into the facts of the issue.

Glassheim says women are paid 71 cents for every dollar earned by men for the same work. While the usual number for this talking point is 77 cents, the actual number, as reported by the Department of Labor in 2009, is closer to 95 cents.

But whatever the number is, the bigger question is what is causing it. Glassheim suggests women are being cheated out of this money because of discrimination, and to fix that, we need stronger laws.

Really?

What we need is to go beyond demagoguery and find out whether discrimination actually is causing the pay gap in the first place.

One of the leading experts on this subject is Claudia Goldin, a Harvard economist who has studied the gender pay gap for decades.

Does Goldin think the gap result from discrimination? She does not. While there may be isolated instances of discrimination, the lingering gap, she believes. mostly is caused by something else.

That something else is women's choices—choices of such things as flexible working hours ("temporal flexibility," in Goldin's terms) over income growth.

Women tend to value flexibility to care for their children, parents or other loved ones over making top dollar. Because of this, Goldin says, women also make career choices—working part-time, working from home, working at jobs that don't require much travel—that can result in less pay, because the women don't climb the same career ladder as the men who start out with the same qualifications.

Glassheim isn't the first to demagogue this issue; he's merely repeating liberal talking points. But it would be nice if our Senate candidate would give us the facts instead of what he wants us to believe.

Jim Nostdahl

Grand Forks

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