How Liberals Misunderstand The Gender Wage Gap

Listening to liberals discuss the gender pay gap in sports provides a great opportunity to see them misunderstand how the world works. Based on the recent pay controversies in tennis and soccer, liberals seem to think that women who do well competing against other women should receive the same compensation as the top men. So, by this reasoning, the top female golfer, Lydia Ko, should get paid at the same level as Jordan Spieth. Or the salary of the top female basketball player, whoever she is, should equal that of Stephen Curry. But most normal people intuitively understand this would be unjust.

In an economy typified by voluntary exchange and competitive markets, compensation is determined by the value that individuals create by providing goods and services to others. In sports, the revenue that men and women athletes generate from ticket sales, television revenue, and endorsements reflects the value created by them and will determine the compensation for each group. The PGA and NBA generate significantly more revenue than the LPGA and WNBA, and so the difference in pay between the men and women in these sports is perfectly justified.

A tennis tournament director for one of women’s major events was forced to resign recently after he made some comments about women players riding the coattails of the men. Novak Djokovic, the top ranked men’s player, followed this with some dopey comments of his own about women’s hormones, but he also pointed out that the men’s game has more spectators. Although jeered by liberals, Djokovic understands the issue  better. Liberals point out that tickets for the women’s final at the last U.S. Open sold out before the men’s event, but one event doesn’t settle the matter. The men and women play on separate tours, so it should be easy to compare revenues and determine the value that each group provides.

Players from the U.S. women’s soccer team recently filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the sport’s governing body in the U.S. Liberals harp on the success of the women compared to the men, but again, this is irrelevant. Only the value created by each group counts. On a global scale, it’s unlikely that the women’s game outdraws the men. Indeed, the men’s World Cup event generated significantly more revenue than the women, so it’s not unreasonable that the world governing body paid more to Germany, the men’s World Cup winner in 2014, than it paid to the United States which won the women’s World Cup in 2015.

But wait, the Americans apparently received a higher percentage of the total World Cup revenue than did the Germans, so the women actually were overcompensated. The women’s team may be more popular in the U.S. than the men’s team, but if the percentage of revenue that the U.S. governing body generates from the men’s game worldwide is higher than the percentage it pays its men as it divides the booty, then its women are free riding on the men’s game. Winning a World Cup is not conclusive and as is true for tennis, the relative popularity of the women’s and men’s game in the U.S. should be easy to know because we have separate soccer leagues in this country. Who wants to bet that women outdraw the men?

In her recent Washington Post column, Sally Jenkins referred to the size of the television audience for the women’s 2015 World Cup, suggesting that she might have an inkling of how things work, but as a conforming, predictable liberal, Jenkins couldn’t help including the standard lies about the gender gap (see here). To bolster her claims of discrimination, Jenkins actually refers to the worn-out claim that women “make 78 cents on the dollar compared to men.” She even quotes ratios for African American and Latina women. In reality, 78 percent is a raw depiction of the gap, which when adjusted to account for education and experience, disappears almost entirely.

The raw gap is due to the fact that women are not in the work force as continuously as men and may take jobs in lower paying fields that allow them to take time off more easily, mostly because they give birth to children and, you know, want to raise them as much as possible. Liberals are biology deniers and when they suggest that men should be given more time off, we see their solution to inequality is to drag down the hard workers. Yeah, nothing like dragging down the successful to create a robust, vibrant, and growing economy.

Jenkins also claims that female soccer players are doing “identical work” as the men, but this is irrelevant because the question is one of creating value. And the work is not identical anyway because women compete against women, not men. We might view the existence of women’s divisions in sports as affirmative action for women. If men and women competed as a single group, few women, if any, would finish among the leaders in competition with the men in any sport. So a separate category seems necessary to give women a chance.

But characterizing women’s sports as affirmative action would go too far. Women’s sports generate interest and create value in their own right, precisely because men and women are not the same. What is not going too far is to realize that liberals’ discussion of the gender pay gap confirms that they have absolutely no clue about any of this.

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