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U.S. Senate candidate looks over notes at a political debate U.S. Senate candidate looks over notes at a political debate

U.S. Senate candidate looks over notes at a political debate

By Jim Tharpe September 16, 2016

Barksdale claim on wage gap lacks context

The so-called gender pay gap has reared its head in Georgia’s U.S. Senate race.

Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson is being challenged by Democrat Jim Barksdale and Libertarian Allen Buckley in the race, which polls indicate Isakson is leading.

Barksdale hopes a strong turnout by women voters in a year in which Hillary Clinton is running to become the first woman president will boost his chances. And he makes a direct appeal to them on his campaign website.

"We cannot continue to have women paid fractions compared to their male counterparts," Barksdale states on the site. "In Georgia, women earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, and for women of color the disparities are even more stark. The wage gap is a real economic crisis and has to be addressed by our elected leaders in Washington."

PolitiFact and PolitiFact Georgia have reviewed the gender pay gap on numerous occasions. But Barksdale’s numbers are a bit different, so we decided to take a look. Specifically we wanted to look at his 82-cents comparison with men’s earnings.

We contacted the Barksdale campaign about the website claim and campaign spokeswoman Emily Oh responded with an email.

"Jim Barksdale believes that Georgian women need a pay raise and equal pay for equal work would be economically beneficial to Georgia and the country as a whole," she wrote.

The gender pay gap has become something of a rallying cry in political circles. It usually goes something like this: Women earn 77 cents on the dollar  for doing the "same work" as a man.  

But that figure, derived from U.S. Census figures, is highly problematic when politicians wrap campaign slogans around it.

In his 2012 re-election run, an ad for President Barack Obama claimed "Women (are) paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men." PolitiFact rated that statement Mostly False.

Obama retooled his words in his 2014 State of the Union address, saying women "still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns." That statement rated Mostly True.

The difference in the president’s two statements is subtle but important. The 77-cent figure does not apply to men and women who do the same job. It was never intended to be a measure of equal pay for equal work.  Instead it refers to the average disparity between the total of what men and women earn, period. All women’s earnings compared to all men’s earnings.

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In reality, the gender pay gap diminishes substantially when men and women of the same age, experience and education do the same job. It still exists, but diminishes to the low single digits.

But there is indeed a wage gap based on gender. It exists for many reasons besides overt discrimination, experts point out. Women tend to take more time off for unpaid child-rearing responsibilities. Men tend to work more overtime. And men often pursue jobs in the high-paying science, technology, engineering and math-related professions.

A wage gap exists in every part of the United States, PolitiFact Georgia found in an earlier fact-check, ranging from a low of 66.6 cents in Wyoming to a high of 90 cents in Washington, D.C., in 2010. But if broken down by narrow groups, research shows single, childless women in their 20s in major metro areas outearned male peers, specifically in Atlanta by 21 percent and by 12 percent in Los Angeles.

We contacted the Barksdale campaign about the Democrat’s claim than women in Georgia make only 82 cents for every dollar earned by a man.

Those numbers are attributed to the National Partnership for Women & Families, a nonprofit advocacy group that promotes "fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, access to quality, affordable health care, and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family."

That group got its  information from  the U.S. Census Bureau’s one-year American Community Survey. And that survey shows women who work full time, year-round in Georgia are paid 82 cents for every dollar paid to men, said Vicki Shabo, the group’s vice president.  That figure is calculated based on median annual pay. But it is not an attempt to measure equal pay for equal work.

"Median annual pay for a woman who holds a full-time, year-round job in Georgia is $36,468 while median annual pay for a man in Georgia who holds a full-time, year-round job is $44,623," Shabo wrote in an email.

Our ruling

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jim Barksdale that women in Georgia only earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by a man.

Technically, that is true for full-time workers as a very broad measure. But the statement is missing substantial context needed to fully grasp a  very complex issue.

When asked for clarification, Barksdale's campaign issued a statement that veered into the equal-pay-for-equal-work argument, something the study behind the statement did not attempt to address.

Barksdale’s statement is accurate but misleading.

We rate it Half True.


Our Sources


September 8 Email from Barksdale campaign spokeswoman Emily Oh

September 7 Email from Vicki Shabo of the National Partnership for Women & Families,

Jim Barksdale campaign website

National Partnership for Women & Families website

President Obama on gender pay

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

Institute for Women's Policy Research, "The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation," April 2011

Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Table 1. Median years of tenure with current employer for employed wage and salary workers by age and sex, selected years, 1996-2010," accessed June 21, 2012

Institute for Women's Policy Research, "Obama is Right About His Wage Gap Statistics," June 13, 2012

Washington Post Fact Checker, "The White House’s use of data on the gender wage gap," June 5, 2012

Bloomberg, "Shining Shoes Best Way Wall Street Women Outearn Men," March 16, 2012

Barack Obama, transcript of the State of the Union address as delivered, Jan. 28, 2013

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

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

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

CONSAD Research Corp., "An Analysis of Reasons for the Disparity in Wages Between Men and Women," Jan. 12, 2009

U.S. Labor Department, "Myth Busting the Pay Gap," June 7, 2012


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