Photo of the day

From a recent Telegraph animal pictures of the week gallery:

A pair of white-headed vultures stand side by side in the Kruger National Park in South Africa. 

A pair of white-headed vultures stand side by side in the Kruger National Park in South Africa. 
 Greatstock / Barcroft

The truth about the gender wage gap? It’s (really) complicated

There was a great Freakonomics podcast about the gender wage gap a while back that featured an interview with Harvard economist Claudia Goldin.  It’s hard to blog on a podcast, so I let it slide by.  Well, now, Vox’s Sarah Kliff has written a feature story–based largely on Goldin’s research–on the complexities of the gender wage gap, and it’s terrific.  Chances are pretty good you don’t understand this issue as well as you think you do.  And even if you do, it’s well worth reading (and there’s some really fun cartoons in there, too).  Here’s some highlights:

Instead, the workforce disadvantages women in subtler ways — ways that ultimately show up in their paycheck but don’t always begin there. The highest-paying jobs disproportionately reward those who can work the longest, least flexible hours.

These types of job penalize workers who have caregiving responsibilities outside the workplace. Those workers tend to be women.

As Goldin put it in her speech, “The gender gap in pay would be considerably reduced and might even vanish if firms did not have an incentive to disproportionately reward individuals who worked long hours and worked particular hours.”

Goldin explains why the wage gap exists by looking at where it exists. What does it tell us when we learn that pharmacists, for example, have a really small wage gap but lawyers have a large one? How can we learn from the fact that women in their 30s have a way bigger wage gap than their co-workers a decade younger?

Let’s find out…

Certain hours are more important than others in some jobs — and those jobs have especially high wage gaps

Goldin’s research has found that workers in the industries with large wage gaps are more likely to say their jobs value those who “develop constructive and cooperative working relationships” and that their company generally determines their “tasks, priorities, and goals.”

Workers in these industries often face steep penalties for any interruption to their career. One study estimates that among lawyers, a year out of the labor force causes an 8.4 percent salary reduction.

When does it become harder to work a very specific schedule?

There are millions of jobs in America that demand very specific hours from very specific people. Most of the economy is organized around a set 9-to-5 schedule.

Those jobs generally worked great 50 years ago. Back then, nearly every American worker had a wife at home to manage anything that might interrupt a workday.

“She took care of all the big and small daily emergencies that might distract the American Worker from focusing 100 percent on his job while he was at work,” economist Heather Boushey writes in her book on work-life balance, Finding Time. “Her time at home made possible the American Worker’s time at work.”

But these silent partners are becoming increasingly rare. Most mothers of young children work now.

With no silent partner at home, workers now have to find a place in their schedule for caregiving. It’s tough to do, and women tend to be the ones who end up doing it…

Politicians like to talk about solutions to the gender wage gap. But it’s not clear how far government interventions can go.

Hillary Clinton in particular has pushed for more affordable child care and passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would make it illegal to fire or punish someone who asks a co-worker how much he or she makes.

Goldin tends to be skeptical of policy solutions because they can often play out in unpredictable ways. And they treat a symptom of the root problem — inflexible workplaces — rather than the problem itself.

Consider paid maternity leave, a policy often advocated to support working women. It is undoubtedly great for newborns to have more time with their mother in the first months of life. But this could actually lead to lower wages for women, as they would be more likely to have disruption to their careers…

Closing the wage gap means making jobs work differently. There are some jobs where that won’t be possible. Adding more flexibility won’t erase the gender wage gap overnight. But it is part of a larger shift in how we see jobs as different now that most workers are also responsible for some level of child care. And there are plenty where we could certainly try harder.

Great stuff.  We can actually take important steps to close the wage gap.  But it is as much about re-envisioning how we see modern workers and workplace flexibility and gender and care-giving roles as it is about government policy.  That said, I’m for all of the above.  But, as much as anything I’m for being honest about how complex this problem really is so we can think about it in a smart and thoughtful manner– like Claudia Goldin– to take the most appropriate steps as a society and as public policy.

Lost in the noise

In all the craziness that is Trump, it is easy to just overlook how absolutely crazy his proposed economic policies are.   The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has chosen to take him (more) seriously (than he deserves) and put his budget through serious analysis.  And, (not) suprise, surprise– it’s a deficit-busting monstrosity.  This graph captures it pretty well:

Anyway, chances are good that it never comes to pass.  But, sadly, the absurdity of Trump’s economic proposals are the least of the problems with him.

A bounce to last?

My wife keeps reminding me that I repeatedly told her that its a volatile time in polling and not to make too much out of polls until a few more weeks.  Good caveat.  That said, we shouldn’t ignore the information in the latest polls.  And, for one, Hillary getting a substantially larger bounce than Trump is a good thing, anyway you look at it.

Nate Cohn makes the case that it is not just the size of the bounce, but the nature of what’s behind it, that really matters:

Convention bounces often prove to be short-lived, as the name implies and as Mr. Trump’s experience proves. Often, post-convention bounces don’t even reflect real changes in support — just changes in how likely people are to respond to a poll or to indicate their support for a candidate.

With that history in mind, Mrs. Clinton’s lead would be expected to fade a bit over the next few weeks. But her comfortable advantage in the post-convention polls suggests that her support can fade and that she can still maintain a clear lead. [emphases mine]

There are also reasons to think that Mrs. Clinton’s bounce is likelier to stick than most. In general, convention bounces are most durable when they help unify the parties — something that’s largely inevitable and hard to undo…
The latest CNN poll, which showed Mrs. Clinton ahead by nine points, suggests that she made her biggest gains among friendly groups, like young voters, supporters of Bernie Sanders and nonwhite voters. These gains could prove relatively durable

The polls now put Mrs. Clinton a bit ahead of the level she held before James Comey, the F.B.I. director, excoriated her for her use of a private email server. She held a similar lead in April — before Mr. Trump won the nomination in May and narrowed her lead for the month or so that followed. This has been the race’s natural resting place when there hasn’t been something else suppressing Mrs. Clinton’s support — another reason to think she might be able to retain most of her bounce.

For Mr. Trump, the danger is that he has few opportunities to prevent Mrs. Clinton from further consolidating her support over the coming weeks.
But, chances are we’ll really know in a few weeks:

If Mrs. Clinton retains most of her gains over the coming weeks, Mr. Trump’s chances in the race will start to look fairly bleak. Surveys conducted a few weeks after the conventions are far more predictive of the result than those taken ahead of or during the conventions.

No modern presidential candidate who trailed in the polls a few weeks after the conventions has gone on to win the popular vote.

Honestly, at this point, with Trump continuing to be Trump, I would be quite surprised if Clinton does not still have a lead of 4-5 points in a couple weeks.

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