The Religion/Pay Gap?

The financial news and opinion company 24/7 Wall St. recently released a study of the one hundred largest metropolitan areas comparing the median wages of men and women, and listing the ten best and ten worst for women’s earnings. The figures come from U.S. Census data. On a national basis, working women make on average, about 80% of what men do, but the variance can be considerable from state to state or city to city.

Not surprisingly to me, four of the five areas where women make the least compared to men were in “Mormon country” – three in Utah, and one in Idaho. The “worst” was the Provo area, where women on average make only 64% of what men earn. The single non-Mormon metro area in the bottom five was Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The fact that the five areas with the greatest discrepancy are all located in areas dominated by highly patriarchal religions seems to be more than coincidence.

Now, the first thought that some will doubtless suggest is that fewer women associated with patriarchal religions work, but the survey was of working women, not all women. In addition, figures show that the percentage of married women who work in Utah is right around the national average. The other factor is that in the Provo area, there is a greater discrepancy between the higher education levels of men and women. It’s also the “most” LDS area in Utah, with the lowest percentage of women with college degrees, which tends to suggest that perhaps the LDS faith tends to value education in women less than in men, a fact I noted in an earlier blog.

Now, I’ve heard and seen all the LDs pronouncements on education, but it’s fairly clear that education comes second to faith. Why else would the Mormon Church push the age for young members lower so that a university education essentially competes with going on a mission? And going on a mission isn’t exactly cheap. Also, why does the LDS faith/culture, especially in Utah, press for those returned missionaries to get married within a year of returning from their mission – when most of them have three or four years left to finish college, if they attend college at all. In addition, there’s tremendous pressure on young married couples to have children immediately.

The result of this faith/cultural pressure is that, in practice, education for women not only takes second place to the education for men, but is effectively prioritized behind faith and the need to have children –lots of them –and the statistics bear this out. And those statistics explain yet another reason why women in Utah are underpaid.

I understand that, for many people, faith and male priorities come first. Just don’t tell me that education is a priority, especially when Utah also has the lowest rate of spending for primary and secondary education in the United States and the highest birth rate.

7 thoughts on “The Religion/Pay Gap?”

  1. R. Hamilton says:

    For groups, survival of the group comes first, not the best interests of the individual. Converting more and breeding more, are strategies that grow the group. When the combination also perpetuates the power of those in power within the group, it seems almost inevitable.

    I can think of few religions that would refrain from such a strategy; perhaps the Shakers, which aren’t around any more because they were too high-minded for that strategy. And fewer organizations, not specifically intended to be temporary, where their nominal priorities actually were higher than the continuance of the group.

    I may sympathize with the criticism, yet although it may not be egalitarian, as long as it works, why should modern social judgements matter?

  2. Alan Naylor says:

    I am aware that people espouse the 80% figure, or some number roughly close to it, a great deal. I am quite skeptical of this number and the survey data used to achieve it. Who was surveyed? In what fashion were they surveyed?

    Women, typically, go into softer jobs than men. You find women choosing to go into child care, secretarial or teaching positions which pay less than an engineering field (for instance). Did they screen men and women working in industrial repair and compare their incomes? Or working men and women in all fields?

    I know that my boss would be tickled pink if I could find 20 women to come replace 20 of the men working at my company for 80% of their salaries. That would be an average savings of $6/hour at the starting wage offered. We are having a great difficulty in locating anyone to fill the job openings we have in automation and industrial maintenance. The majority of applicants simply aren’t qualified. Our pay scale is published when you apply for the job.

    The same is true for our line workers and machine operators. Their pay is published, so regardless of sex, race, religion, color or creed you know what you will be paid and what the person working next to you started out getting paid.

    On the religious front, I’ve never understood the reason why people allow religion to dictate their lives into a more difficult and harder road. I didn’t grow up religious and I don’t have the indoctrination to accept that I must bow before an almighty of any sort. Does the cultural pressure from growing up in this environment really drive people to sacrifice a comfortably life and the chance to get improve their own lot? More over it seems a poor decision to promote early marriage and early children in a family just starting out. They will struggle from the beginning with strained resources, becoming a burden on the church and society.

    1. You’re correct in noting that a significant number of women tend to choose jobs in fields which pay less, but even in those fields, pay/position discrimination exists. In university teaching, men are paid more than women for the same general job title. This is possible because virtually every job description is unique and can be tailored beyond the title to what the department — usually dominated by men — wants.Even in secondary and primary school teaching, men tend to get the higher-paid administrative positions. In addition, studies have shown that once women comprise half the jobs in any given field, pay for both men and women stops increasing until the pay scale for the entire employee body drops behind other fields. Read Science over the past several years, and you’ll become acquainted with the significant and continuing discrimination against women in the hard sciences. While the 80% figure for all employment most likely is technically accurate, part of that discrepancy is due to the factors you cite. Unfortunately, it’s only partial.

      As for your observations about religion, while what you say makes great sense from a societal point of view, you’re overlooking the fact that people with higher education levels tend not to be as great in their support of religion, especially financially, and church authorities want their congregations — and their financial support — to grow.

  3. CEC says:

    Like Alan Naylor above, I think the 80% number gets thrown around a bit more than it should. While the numbers I’ve seen skew closer to parity when adjusting for specific job, years of experience, and a few other factors, the stats only get closer; there’s still a material gap. That always makes me wonder why it has become so commonplace in the US for news sources like 24/7 Wall St. to present the statistics which appear the most damning, instead of the ones which are the least arguable.

    Yes, there’s a wage gap. Beyond acknowledging that, calling people out on it when and where I have the authority to do so, and treating all of the people who work for me equally, I don’t see what else I (or any other regular person) can really do about it.

    1. RRRea says:

      The obvious answer is “Nothing” on the individualized level you are taking this too. It requires something on the level of social engineering. Individual action is all you can take to affect your specific situation. Collective effort of some sort are pretty much the only way to go. (Governmental is the usual, and arguably most potentially effective answer, since that’s what governments DO, but there are definitely other options…. vide the way car companies shifted the blame for accidents involving pedestrians to the pedestrians to enhance their bottom line back in the 20’s, and similarly the way the major polluters shifted blame from their activities to individuals in the 60-70’s.)

      So the other thing you could do besides trying to be as fair as possible in your personal sphere is to support collective efforts.

      1. Alan Naylor says:

        As near as I understand it this has already been legislated. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 is a United States labor law amending the Fair Labor Standards Act, aimed at abolishing wage disparity based on sex, essentially the gender pay gap which we all generally agree exists to a greater or lesser degree. It was signed into law on June 10, 1963, by John F. Kennedy as part of his New Frontier Program. Amendments since it’s inception have changed the bill to include salaried professionals, executives, administrators and professors of all stripes.

        This law is why the wage scale where I work is published and why any woman who starts here would start at exactly the same pay I did. The largest difference is between time served at the company, and amounts to about $8/hour at the maximum end compared to the new hire’s position.

        I would also have to wonder if these sorts of studies include federal or state workers? Most of those jobs are covered under one or another of published wage scales which are very similar to the military’s. If you’re an E-6 with 10 years of service, you make $4000/month (or whatever the actual number is) regardless of gender. The same is true if you work at the VA in filing. You’re a GS-5 step 6 (or whatever the appropriate pay slot is), and will be paid accordingly, regardless of sex.

        As I understand it, before this law went into effect women made a little over half of what men did for the exact same jobs. Now women make the tooted %80 of what men make. If women are so much cheaper to employ, I am sure that employers would be beating down their doors to have them fill positions. More over, if a woman, in any field, could prove gender bias in her pay she would be entitled to all sort of recompensation from her employer. Not the least of which, especially in a corporate environment, would be the ability to sue the company for a very hefty settlement. Obama signed into law that each paycheck a woman received where she was not paid equal to a man would be a separate offense a woman could seek redress for. Given the large number of lawyers in this country and the sue happy nature of people, I can’t understand why women aren’t lining up with the lawyers to cash in. Especially against major corporations.

        The above, coupled with the questionable nature of the surveys, makes me skeptical of the %80 figure. I don’t deny that the gap exists, I simply do not feel, from observation and evidence I have seen, that it exists in every field or that it is a %20 gap.

        I have been told that a white male worker compared to an Hispanic female worker is a %54 gap. If I could find an Hispanic female to do my job for %54 of the pay the company would be ecstatic. I’d be the instant new head of HR simply by replacing all of the men with women! This simple fact makes me extremely suspicious of the information provided. Regardless of the reasons fort here not being many women in industrial automation, be it because of education, personal choices, etc, there simply are not many women in industrial automation and repair, even fewer Hispanic women. So how can any organization claim there is a %54 pay gap in my job field. It sounds like a lot of numbers and rationalizations to make a problem which does exist seem much larger.

  4. Jonnie says:

    The gender pay gap does exist, as for the reason behind it…, I’m sure in some cases it’s discrimination, but I personally beleive most are not. Could it be said that the medicare, wellfare, and alimony payments make up for the gap? In all of those women receive more. Why are we focusing on money by the way? What about the male death gap?

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