Friday, October 24th, 2014
Mostly True
Burke
"In Wisconsin, a woman only earns 80 cents for every $1 a man earns."

Mary Burke on Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 in a news release

Scott Walker opponent Mary Burke says working Wisconsin women earn 80% of what men earn

In her campaign for governor of Wisconsin, Mary Burke highlighted the pay gap between men and women.

Marking what President Barack Obama proclaimed as National Equal Pay Day, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke uttered a claim that many politicians have made in one form another at the state or national level.

"Women deserve equal pay for equal work. It's just that simple," Burke, a Madison School Board member, said in an April 8, 2014 news release.

"In Wisconsin, a woman only earns 80 cents for every dollar a man earns -- and pay discrimination doesn't just hurt our families, it hurts our economies, too."

Let's take a look.

Similar claims

In rating a number of pay-gap claims, we and our PolitiFact colleagues have found that wording is crucial. Two of those fact-checks help put Burke's claim into perspective.

Former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk, while campaigning for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination to challenge Walker in the 2012 recall election, said Wisconsin women "are paid 81 cents to the dollar of a man doing the same job."

The key phrase was "same job."

We rated the statement False, finding that Falk misquoted the very report she relied on. The report said that -- among all men and women in Wisconsin working all sorts of jobs -- women earned 81 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Burke's claim, in contrast, is more similar to one made by Obama.

"You know, today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns," Obama said in his January 2014 State of the Union speech. "That is wrong, and in 2014, it's an embarrassment. Women deserve equal pay for equal work."

PolitiFact National rated Obama's statement Mostly True.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, our colleagues found, women who worked full-time, year-round in 2012 made 77 cents for every $1 men earned across the country.

The comparison includes all male and female workers regardless of occupation.

Our colleagues noted, however, the existence of a pay gap doesn’t necessarily mean the gap is caused by discrimination. Work by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, for example, found that one factor is that women more often choose lower-paying jobs such as receptionists, nurses and teachers, while men more often pursue paths as truck drivers, managers and computer software engineers.

Wisconsin figures

So what's the situation in Wisconsin?

Three organizations -- the Institute for Women's Policy Research, the National Partnership for Women & Families and the American Association of University Women -- also cited 2012 census data as the latest available.

Those figures show Wisconsin women earned 78 cents per $1 earned by men.

The American Association of University Women said in a March 2014 report that the median annual earnings for Wisconsin women working full time year round was $36,535 -- 78 percent of the $46,898 earned by men.

(The median is the middle number -- in other words, half of the workers earned more than that amount and half earned less.)

Commenting on the pay gap at the national level, the association said career choices explain some of the pay gap. But even after accounting for college major, occupation, hours worked and other factors, the association said, 7 percent of the gap nationally between men and women college graduates remained unexplained one year after graduation.

So, there is evidence that Wisconsin women earn 78 cents per $1 of what men earn, although the role discrimination might play is not clear.

Our rating

Burke said: "In Wisconsin, a woman only earns 80 cents for every $1 a man earns."

Her claim is slightly conservative, in that census data put the figure at 78 cents.

It's worth noting that the gap is not necessarily due to discrimination -- a conclusion some might have drawn because Burke's statement made reference to pay discrimination.

We rate the claim Mostly True.