Steve Chapman

You could argue that oppressive social conventions saddle mothers with the main responsibility for this task. But given the drastic changes in sex roles and expectations over the past half-century, why should we assume that this one is being forced on women? If they tend to place greater importance on child-rearing than men, they will be more inclined to interrupt their careers, even at a sacrifice in long-term earnings.

Pay differences stemming from factors within the control of females are a "problem" only if you define them as one. By that logic, we need a Higher Education Fairness Act because men earn only 43 percent of all bachelor's degrees and 40 percent of master's degrees.

If universities are taking steps to discourage guys from enrolling, it's a problem that may be amenable to government action. But if the imbalance is the result of males skipping college in favor of other options, there is no social injustice to undo.

What the alleged gender pay gap reflects is the interaction of supply and demand in a competitive labor market. Even in a slow economy, companies that mistreat women can expect to lose them to rival employers.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would upend these processes, with the government and courts assuming responsibility for what each worker should be paid, according to Harry Reid's standards of justice and fairness. Every salary decision would be fraught with the dread prospect of litigation -- promoting rigid pay scales simply to minimize the liability risk.

The result would be a less nimble and efficient economy, which over time dampens productivity improvements and stifles wage growth. The effect on paychecks? Not fair, but foul.

Steve Chapman blogs daily at newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/steve_chapman. To find out more about Steve Chapman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.
 

 
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