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The economic equity issues that proved pivotal in the 2012 presidential campaign are again shaping up as big factors this year.
Both major parties are pushing to make sure their talking points prevail. Democrats cite statistics showing a yawning pay gap between men and women, with Republicans countering that young women are out earning men in some urban areas.
The National Partnership For Women & Families, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, released a new analysis April 8, 2014, to coincide with Equal Pay Day. It cited U.S. Census data showing that women who work full time in Oregon are paid 79 cents for every dollar paid to men -- a claim PolitiFact Oregon has investigated previously and found solid.
But it went further. If the wage gap were eliminated, it said, "a working woman in Oregon would have enough money per year for 2,877 gallons of gas, 72 more weeks of food for her family or nearly 12 more months of rent.
We wondered if the specific pieces of the claim were on the money.
The basis of the group’s claim comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. It lists, state by state, median annual earnings for year-round, full-time workers and draws on statistics from 2012, the most recent year available.
Men in Oregon earned $47,402, compared with $37,381 for women, according to the data. That’s 79 cents on the dollar and adds up to a gap of $10,021 a year.
The gap persists for a variety of reasons, said Mary King, a Portland State University economics professor, including a gender division of labor under which "women’s jobs" are paid less, lack of strong family-leave policies, and women disproportionately ending up in low-paying retail and service work.
Satisfied that women do earn 79 cents for every dollar earned by men -- the gap would be 21 cents -- we emailed Sadie Kliner, the National Partnership for Women & Families’ communications director. She directed us to a separate fact sheet.
Gasoline prices, according to the sheet, were provided by Oil Price Information Service in cooperation with Wex, Inc. A gallon of regular gas in Oregon currently costs $3.697, it read.
We checked that against AAA Oregon/Idaho’s website, which shows regular gas in Oregon right now averaging $3.69 per gallon.
Then we did the math, dividing the wage gap of $10,021 by $3.69. The group claimed a woman could buy 2,877 gallons, but we found closing the gap would enable a woman to buy only 2,715 gallons.
We contacted Kliner again, who noted that Oregon’s gas prices were $3.48 when the fact sheet was prepared in early March. A check of AAA’s gas-price information confirmed Kliner’s point.
We moved on to the 12 months worth of rent piece of the claim. The group, citing data from the Census’s 2012 American Community Survey, put the median cost for rental housing in Oregon at $862 a month. It showed a margin of error of plus or minus 8 percent.
Independently verifying that number wasn’t easy, since no county or or state organization tracks it. We called Multifamily NW, whose members manage more than 150,000 rental units from southern Washington to Medford.
Jonathan Clay, the association’s research and communications analyst, pointed us to a semi-annual survey released in October. Two-bedroom, one-bath units averaged $818 per month across the metro area, according to the survey, putting it within range of the margin of error in the Census data.
We calculated that $10,021 would pay for 11.5 months of rent, just over half a month shy of the group’s original claim of 12 months. Again contacting Kliner about the discrepancy, she noted that the group rounded the figure up, using the word "nearly" to account for the difference.
Finally, in assessing food costs, we noted that the original claim said "72 more weeks of food for her family." While the claim didn’t specify the number of children, we settled on two. We then checked the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website, which publishes monthly food plans representing a well-rounded diet at four different cost levels.
Drawing from the low-cost plan, two children could be fed on $97.50 per week. Food costs for an adult female would bring the family’s weekly total to $144.90. That compares with the $139.10 per week for the 72 weeks in the group’s pay-gap claim.
A national advocacy group, in spotlighting Equal Pay Day, claimed that a pay gap between men and women exists in Oregon.
PolitiFact Oregon has looked at the gap before and found that it’s real, but we took the next step by fact-checking the group’s claim that the gap is big enough to pay for 2,877 gallons of gasoline, 72 months of food or nearly 12 months of rent. All three elements of the claim checked out -- or were very close -- according to independent sources. We rate the claim True.
Email exchanges with Sadie Kliner, senior communications manager, National Partnership for Women & Families, April 8/9, 2014.
Email from Mary C. King, Portland State University economics professor, April 9, 2014.
AAA Oregon/Idaho website.
AAA/Oregon/Idaho news release, "Oregon’s Gas Price are 10th most expensive in the Nation," April 8, 2014.
Telephone interview with Tom Potiowsky, Economics Department head, Portland State University, April 9, 2014.
PolitiFact Oregon, "Do Oregon women earn 79 cents for every dollar men earn for doing the same job?" Feb. 19, 2014.
Multifamily NW, "The Apartment Report," October 2013.
United States Department of Agriculture, Official USDA Food Plans: Cost of Food at Home at Four Levels, U.S. Average, January 2014.
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