Maria Shriver's new report, "A Woman's Nation Changes Everything," has received a full dress media rollout. We are invited to examine the changes in women's lives over the past several decades and to deplore, as usual, the obstacles to full equality that women supposedly face. Published in cooperation with the Center for American Progress, "A Woman's Nation" claims to be reckoning with the new era but arguably fails to grapple with the most profound challenges to women (as well as children and men).
Some of what's in this report is a recycling of long-discredited data. Heather Boushey, for example, regurgitates the statistic that women only earn 77 cents on the dollar compared with men. But as the Hudson Institute's Diana Furchtgott-Roth and other economists have shown, this number conceals more than it reveals. It is only true on average. But when you begin to compare like with like, the discrepancies narrow considerably. Comparing men and women who both work 40 hours per week, for example, reduces the pay gap by 10 cents per hour. You have to look carefully at what is being compared. Among workers labeled "full time," hours worked by men tend to exceed hours worked by women. When men and women performing the same job are compared -- whether supermarket checker or first-year associate at a law firm -- the pay gap nearly disappears.
"A Woman's Nation" declares in one breath that the "war of the sexes is over" but in the next launches a broadside about women's educational opportunities. It requires some ingenuity to complain that women are educationally shortchanged, when, as even the chapter's author, Mary Ann Mason, acknowledges, "Women today receive 62 percent of college associate's degrees, 57 percent of bachelor's degrees, 60 percent of all master's degrees, half of all professional degrees (law and medicine) and just under half of all Ph.D.s." But there is a problem lurking beneath the surface of this evident success. Though they dominate higher education, too many women are still choosing "traditional female majors" like education, health care (including nursing), and psychology.