Working for Women’s Equality

Thursday, August 5, 2010 \PM\.\Thu\.

Take the wages of every male employed in the U.S. and divide by the number of men employed. Now do the same for females in the U.S. Perform these calculations, and what you will find is that the average female wage in the United States is about 78% of the average male wage. This doesn’t mean, of course, that a woman will get paid seventy eight cent for every dollar paid to a man for the same job, though it’s often phrased that way in popular discourse. If it were really true that an employer could get a woman to do the same job at the same level for 78% of the wages, some entrepreneur would long ago have started hiring only women and cleaned his competitors’ clocks. Rather, the difference is largely due to different career choices made by men as opposed to women. Men, for example, tend to work more in risky professions, and tend to work longer hours, whereas women are more likely to cease being employed for extended periods of time in order to raise or have kids (for details, see Warren Farrell’s book Why Men Earn More).

For decades liberal denial of this fact has led to some remarkably silly policy proposals, such as that the government should determine how much every job is *really* worth and force employers to pay accordingly.  An article by David Leonhardt this week in the New York Times, however, indicates that progressives may be ever so slowly to accept reality on the point. Writes Leonhardt:

A recent study of business school graduates from the University of Chicago found that in the early years after graduating, men and women had “nearly identical labor incomes and weekly hours worked.” Men and women also paid a similar career price for taking off or working part time. Women, however, were vastly more likely to do so.

As a result, 15 years after graduation, the men were making about 75 percent more than the women. The study — done by Marianne Bertrand, Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz — did find one subgroup of women whose careers resembled those of men: women who had no children and never took time off.

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Culture War

Thursday, August 5, 2010 \AM\.\Thu\.

People justly tire of the term “culture war” and find themselves asking, like the philosopher Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”

And yet watching the disparate reactions to yesterday’s Federal Court ruling overturning California’s Proposition 8 (for now) it struck me that the culture war terminology is quite apt. What is termed the culture was is essentially a zero sum game over which of two roughly equally numerous groups will be allowed to define the dominant understandings of culture and society in our country. by taking this to the federal level, same sex marriage advocates have made it clear that no degree of regional acceptance is satisfactory — their understanding of the nature of marriage must be the single dominant understanding enforced throughout the country, and those with a traditional understanding of marriage must be the ones who find themselves aliens within their country. And, presumably, is same sex marriage advocates lose, they will in turn consider themselves aliens within the country. Given that it is the most basic units and purposes of society which are in dispute, it seems hard to see how it can be any other way. And while the dispute is to an extent regional, it is much more so philosophical and ideological, making the culture war more resemble the Spanish Civil War than the American. Every city and region has representatives of both sides.

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Edward Coles and Free Illinois

Thursday, August 5, 2010 \AM\.\Thu\.

Edward Coles, the second governor of Illinois, is largely forgotten today, which is a pity.  His actions in 1824 helped lead to Union victory in the Civil War.

Illinois came into the Union as a free state in 1818.  However, a majority of settlers in Illinois initially came from the South and some of them brought slaves, illegally, into the Sucker State.  In 1822 Edward Coles, a 36 year old native of Virginia who had settled in Illinois in 1818, was elected Governor.  Coles came from a slave-holding family, but he had long been convinced that slavery was morally wrong.  When he arrived in Illinois he freed his ten slaves and deeded to each head of a family 160 acres of land to help give them a new start in a free state.  He ran for governor because he was alarmed with the growing strength of pro-slavery forces in his new home state.  In a tight four way race he won.

As Governor, Coles fought against laws in Illinois that discriminated against blacks and against indenture laws that attempted to establish black slavery in Illinois under another name.  In 1823 pro-slavery forces had a call for a constitutional convention put on the ballot in 1824.  Had a convention been called, there is little doubt that Illinois would have been transformed into a slave state.  Working feverishly, Coles and his allies narrowly defeated the call for a constitutional convention at the ballot box in 1824 and Illinois remained a free state.  Had the Civil War begun with an Illinois that had been part of the Confederacy, or, more likely, split in two as Missouri was throughout the war between rival Union and Confederate camps, it is hard for me to see a Union victory.  Illinois contributed a quarter of a million men to the Union cause, and without those men the war in the West could never have been won.

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