In a recent email blast, state Sen. Wendy Davis wrote, “Texas women make an average of $8,355 less per year than men doing the very same job.”
The Fort Worth Democrat concluded her note by calling out Gov. Rick Perry’s veto of legislation that would have changed state law to mimic the 2009 federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which made it easier for women to sue their employers over pay discrimination. Proponents said the Texas law was needed so women had recourse to state courts, not just federal ones.
Austin lawyer Terral Smith, a former Republican member of the Texas House, forwarded Davis’ email and asked us to investigate her pay gap statement.
Sonya Grogg, Davis’ chief of staff, told us that Davis’ $8,355 figure came from an April 2012 report from the National Partnership for Women & Families, an advocacy group. The report drew on 2010 data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicating the median pay for a woman working full time, year round in Texas was $33,689 annually that year, while the median pay for a man was $42,044.
More recent numbers suggest a narrower difference. Census Bureau data from 2012 found a wage gap of $7,859 between Texas men and women working full time, year round, according to an April 2013 report by the partnership.
Another salient wrinkle is that Davis referred to a gap between Texas men and women doing the same jobs, which the partnership’s reports did not do.
Cheryl Abbot, a Dallas-based regional economist for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, told us the figure aired by Davis is a comparison between all men and women, regardless of the type of work they do. In reality, more men hold higher-paying jobs. In Texas in 2011, men accounted for nearly 78 percent of workers in the higher-paid computer, engineering and science fields, according to Census Bureau data. Meanwhile, the data show that women account for nearly 3 in 4 workers in the lower-paid fields of education, training and library jobs.
Studies have shown that, when occupational differences are accounted for, more than half of the gender wage gap is explained, Abbot said. She pointed us to Cornell University labor economists Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn, who wrote a February 2007 paper titled, “The Gender Pay Gap: Have Women Gone Far Enough?” The paper says that 53 percent of the gender wage gap stems from variation in job, industry and union status between the sexes.
Next, we looked for on-point research on pay gaps between Texas men and women doing the same jobs.
Mike Cline of the Hobby Center for the Study of Texas sent us 2011 Census Bureau data specific to Texas. In more than half of 36 listed occupations, the pay gap that year exceeded the $8,355 cited by Davis. The largest gap — $31,628 — was between Texas men and women in health diagnosing and treating professions. The smallest difference, $71, was for men and women employed in installation, maintenance and repair.
The lead economist at PayScale, a Seattle company that compiles salary information enabling clients to evaluate wages, counseled against reaching pay gap conclusions based solely on such census data. Katie Bardaro said that the census figures do not control for differences in years of work experience, educational attainment or companies.
PayScale conducted a national study of the median pay for men and women in each of about 150 jobs, controlling for “years of experience, education, company size, management responsibilities, skills and more” for 2013. The study also controlled for job-specific factors, for instance considering the types of offices where nurses worked. After controlling for numerous factors, “the wage gap all but disappeared,” Bardaro told us.
In Texas, PayScale saw a $2,000 gap between median pay for men and women in similar jobs.
Our ruling: Davis declared an average $8,355 earnings gap between Texas men and women working “the very same job.” We found that newer data put the gap at nearly $500 less. More significantly, the research that Davis tapped did not drill down to salaries for workers doing the same jobs. We rate the claim as Mostly False.
Statement: “Texas women make an average of $8,355 less per year than men doing the very same job.”