Archive for Wednesday, April 4, 2001

Leaders debate study about gender gap in wages

April 4, 2001


— The average woman working on a U.S. government contract job is paid 72 cents for every dollar a man earns, a disputed Labor Department survey of federal contractors found.

The woman gets 82 cents if she has the same position and 89 cents if she has equal tenure and experience at the same company, the study reported.

The draft study was released Tuesday by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and quickly got tangled in politics. The Labor Department said the report, commissioned by Harkin, has not been issued officially because of accuracy questions that arose during the Clinton administration.

"The methodology and the data that was used in the study was severely flawed," said Stuart Roy, spokesman for Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

Another study is being prepared, Roy said.

"I am concerned that fruitful conversations about the status of women in the workplace will be misguided by this flawed study," Chao said.

Harkin released the draft study to mark Equal Pay Day, the theoretical point in the year when women's pay catches up to men's salaries from the year before.

"Anybody in this day and age who doesn't believe that there is a wage gap based on occupational segregation has his or her head stuck in the sand," Harkin said.

The study was completed in January before President Bush took office, and Harkin has pressed unsuccessfully for its official release.

The pay gap is caused by discrimination and because women get steered into lower-paying occupations, the study said.

About half of working women are in occupations that are at least 70 percent female and that typically pay lower wages, the study said.

The study was based on analyses by the National Urban League of a 1999 survey of 4,835 federal contractors from a list of about 100,000 that do business with the federal government.

It also included data from population surveys in 1979, 1989 and 1999, and Equal Employment Opportunity reports from 1975 to 1998.

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