Alex Castellanos Uses ‘Conservative Bubble’ Logic To Explain Gender Pay Gap

In a clash with Rachel Maddow on this past Sunday’s Meet the Press, Republican pundit Alex Castellanos said there are reasons why women make less than men, but even while saying that he denied they actually made less. Because in Castellanos’ mind, women aren’t making less when his “reasons” are taken into account.

See the exchange here (starting at around the five-minute mark):

Maddow said that women “make 77 cents on the dollar.” Castellanos was having none of it, interrupting Maddow by saying, “Not exactly.” He continued, “Actually, if you start looking at the numbers Rachel, there are lots of reasons for that.” Maddow asked Castellanos, “Don’t tell me the reasons, do women make less than men for doing the same work?” Castellanos responded, “Actually no, because … Well, for example, men work an average of 44 hours a week, women work 41 hours a week. Men go into professions like engineering, science and math that earn more. Women want more flexibility.”

As usual, Rachel Maddow is spot on.  A recent report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) shows that “women working full time in the United States still earned just 77 percent, on average, of what men earn, a gap of 23 percent.”

And why does the gender pay gap matter? Well, even if you could come up with “reasons” for the gap like Castellanos, consider this:

Equal pay is not simply a women’s issue—it’s a family issue. Families increasingly rely on women’s wages to make ends meet. In typical married households, women’s incomes accounted for 36 percent of total family income in 2008, up from 29 percent in 1983. A large majority of mothers are in the paid labor force, and about one-third of employed mothers are the sole breadwinners for their families.

For the 34 percent of working mothers who are their families’ sole breadwinner—either because they are single parents or their spouses are not in the labor force—the gender pay gap can contribute to poor living conditions, poor nutrition, and fewer opportunities for their children. For these women, closing the gender pay gap is much more than a point of pride—it’s a matter of necessity.

So what about the “reasons” for the pay gap? Castellanos would have us believe the pay gap can be explained away based on the differences in life choices between men in women. But the AAUW report shows that even accounting for life choice differences, there is still a pay gap that cannot be explained away.

In part, these pay gaps do reflect men’s and women’s choices, especially the choice of college major and the type of job pursued after graduation. For example, women are more likely than men to go into teaching, and this
contributes to the pay gap because teachers tend to earn less than other college graduates. This portion of the pay gap is considered to be explained, regardless of whether teachers’ wages are considered fair.

Yet not all of the gap could be “explained away.” After accounting for college major, occupation, industry, sector, hours worked, workplace flexibility, experience, educational attainment, enrollment status, GPA, institution selectivity, age, race/ethnicity, region, marital status, and number of children, a 5 percent difference in the earnings of male and female college graduates one year after graduation was still unexplained.

A similar analysis of full-time workers 10 years after college graduation found a 12 percent unexplained difference in earnings. Other researchers have also found that the gender pay gap is not fully accounted for by women’s and men’s choices.

It looks like Castellanos is getting his facts and “reasons” from the conservative bubble, a place void of facts and logic when it contradicts pre-existing narratives.


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