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Tom Toles' cartoon of June 18, 2015 Tom Toles' cartoon of June 18, 2015

Tom Toles' cartoon of June 18, 2015

April Hunt
By April Hunt July 10, 2015

Cartoon skips specifics on wage-gap claim

As political cartoons go, it was a fairly simple idea.

The day after the U.S. Treasury announced that the portrait of a woman would be featured on a redesigned $10, the editorial cartoonist at the Washington Post offered his take.

Tom Toles’ cartoon showed a portrait of "U.S. Working Woman" in the center, and the $10 note was worth $7.70. The motto: "Close Enuf 4 U" and signed by "Hugh Ken Wait."

The same idea – that women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man makes – has been the subject of repeated claims by politicians, with varying degrees of success.

Among the best: a Mostly True rating for a similar claim by U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn last year. Nunn was broad enough to be on point, with some context missing.

Among the worst: a Mostly False for that statistic by former President Jimmy Carter, who misread the data to suggest the gap was for equal work.

PolitiFact Georgia decided to see how the Pulitzer prizewinner stacked up against the pols. We’ll get into the challenges of the statistics below.


Just to recap, Alexander Hamilton has graced the $10 since 1929, when the nation’s first secretary replaced Andrew Jackson, the nation’s seventh president, for the honor.

Jackson, meanwhile, was moved to the $20 bill and remains the face of that note today.

An advocacy group called Women on 20s recently petitioned President Obama and Congress for a woman’s face to be put on paper currency.

But treasury officials had already announced that the $10 note would be the next to be redesigned. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in June that he would reveal his choice of the woman who will be on that note by year’s end.

The bill will enter circulation in 2020, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote.


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Even as we approach that historic milestone, data clearly show that there is a wage gap between men and women.

And Toles – like politicians from President Obama down to Connie Stokes, a candidate for lieutenant governor of Georgia – isn’t pulling that 77 percent figure out of thin air.

The U.S. Census found in 2010, that the female-to-male earnings ratio of full-time, year-round workers was 0.77. Put into dollars, that means women working full-time made 77 cents for every dollar earned by men who worked full time.

An updated report for 2012 found the same gap, looking at all male and female full-time workers across the nation, regardless of occupation.

The catch: The statistic is based on total wages.

The Census report did not account for the fact that men generally work more hours. So the large discrepancy exists in part because it does not examine pay for the same work, or the same number of hours worked.

That’s why the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reached a different conclusion of the gap. Its 2012 study analyzed pay by weekly wages and found that women earned 82 cents on the dollar for men’s median weekly earnings.

Other BLS data have shown that the gap also diminishes when comparing women and men, in the same exact job, with the same levels of education and experience.

In those cases, the gap falls to somewhere in the 91 percent range.

So, while all evidence points to a wage gap, the exact difference is between 77 percent and 91 percent, depending on what you want to compare.


The cartoon is broad, bluntly showing that "working women" across the nation would earn just $7.70 for a man’s $10. It leaves a lot open to interpretation.

There is no implication that the jobs being done by men and women are identical, so Toles avoids the mistake of suggesting the gap is that wide for the same jobs. It’s not.

The cartoon is an oversimplification of complex data that has been misread and misused repeatedly. But adding more context would have meant more than a one-panel cartoon.

Toles keeps his claim broad enough to fall in line with the U.S. Census studies. We rate his claim Mostly True.

Our Sources

Washington Post, Tom Toles Friday cartoon: The woman on the $10 bill, June 16, 2015

New York Times, "Woman’s portrait will appear on the $10 bill," June 17, 2015, "The $10 bill is up next for a new look," March 20, 2015

Women on the 20s, It’s About Time for the Future Face of Money, accessed July 7, 2015

PolitiFact, "Barack Obama, in State of the Union, says women make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns," Jan. 29, 2014

PolitiFact Georgia, "Stokes right on broad gender pay claim, missteps on specifics," Sept. 15, 2014

U.S. Census Bureau, "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010," September 2011

U.S. Census Bureau, "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012," September 2013

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2010," July 2011

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Women in the Labor Force: A Databook," December 2011

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Women in the Labor Force: A Databook," February 2013

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2012," October 2013

The American Association of University Women, "The simple truth about the gender pay gap," March 20, 2014

Washington Post Wonkblog, "Women earn 91 cents for every dollar men earn - if you control for life choices," June 5, 2012


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Cartoon skips specifics on wage-gap claim

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