PolitiFact VA: Kaine on the mark about gender pay gap
Speaker: Tim Kaine
Statement: “Virginia women are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to Virginia men.”
Date: March 15, 2022
March 15 was Equal Pay Day and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., was tweeting.
“Virginia women are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to Virginia men,” he wrote. “We must pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to close the gender gap.”
Kaine’s office said his figure comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which issues an annual report comparing the pay of women to men who work at least 35 hours a week at a principal job.
The latest report found that in 2020, Virginia women received a median weekly pay of $1,002 compared to $1,260 for men. In other words, women earned 79.5% as much as men which, rounded up, matches Kaine’s figure.
It’s important to know that the 80% figure is not an apples-to-apples pay comparison of men and women performing the same work. Instead, it refers to median pay for all jobs held by men and all jobs held by women.
Nationally, women were paid 82.3% as much as men in 2020. That means that the pay gap in Virginia was 2.8 percentage points larger than the nation’s.
The bureau, however, cautions that its 2020 figures were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused deep drops in employment, particularly among low-wage workers. BLS reports from 2015 to 2019 show the wage gap in Virginia was typically about 1% larger than the nation’s.
Since 2015, there’s been little movement in Virginia or nationally in how much women make compared to men. It’s hovered at 80% in Virginia and 81% across the U.S.
Is it all discrimination?
Kaine’s tweet calls for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would combat “pay discrimination” against women and LGBTQ workers. It would require employers to prove that pay disparities between men and women are job related and would make it easier to file class-action suits alleging pay discrimination.
The Democratic bill narrowly passed the House in April 2021 but has been stalled in the Senate, unable to get the 60 votes needed to break a Republican filibuster.
As PolitiFact has written before, many researchers have concluded the causes of gender pay disparity go far beyond discrimination.
"The most important source of the gender wage gap is that women assume greater responsibility for child-rearing than men," June O’Neill, an economist at Baruch College, wrote in a 2010 op-ed for the The Wall Street Journal. "That influences women's extent and continuity of work, which affects women's skills and therefore wages. In addition, women often seek flexible work schedules, less stressful work environments, and other conditions compatible with meeting the demands of family responsibilities. Those come at a price—namely, lower wages."
A 2009 analysis by the nonpartisan CONSAD Research Corp. in Pittsburgh also concluded that the wage gap is not simply a product of sexism. CONSAD found that three-fourths of the disparity can be explained by other trends common to women: they tend to choose occupations that have relatively low wages, they tend have degrees leading to lower-paying occupations than men and they tend to have a shorter work history and take more time off from work for childbirth and child care.
CONSAD said these factors, when considered, reduced the pay gap to between 4 and 7%, which could be result of discrimination.
A 2013 study by the American Association of University Women tried to even out the child-rearing effect on women’s pay. It found a 7% wage gap between men and women a year after graduating college and a 12% gap 10 years out - even after accounting for other factors.
Kaine tweeted, “Virginia women are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to Virginia men.”
His comment comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest report comparing the pay of men and women working full-time jobs. In 2020, Virginia women earned 79.5% as much as men. Rounded up, that matches Kaine’s figure.
The 80% figure is not a pay comparison of men and women doing the same work. It refers to the median pay of all jobs held by men and all jobs held by women.
Kaine cited the statistic correctly. We rate his tweet True.
Tim Kaine, Twitter, March 15, 2022
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “ Women’s Earnings in Virginia – 2020,” Sept. 28, 2021
BLS, “ Highlights of women's earnings in 2020,” September 2021
BLS, Women’s earning reports, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
U.S. Census Bureau, “ Income and Poverty in the United States: 2020,” Sept. 14, 2021
PolitiFact Virginia, “ Bobby Scott says women earn 80 percent pay of white men for 'similar' jobs,” Feb. 26, 2019
PolitiFact, “ On Colbert, Kamala Harris flubs wage gap statistic,” May 23, 2019
Email from Janine Kritschgau, Kaine press secretary, March 16, 2022
Congress.gov, H.R.7 - Paycheck Fairness Act, accessed March 17, 2022
The New York Times, “ Republican Filibuster Blocks Pay Equity Bill in the Senate,” June 8, 2021