“Closing our state’s wage gap would make a $9 billion difference to Missouri women.”
— Missouri Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Chris Koster
April 22 tweet
As the Missouri legislative session winds down, attorney general and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Koster isn’t shying away from criticizing the Republican-controlled legislature.
Koster tweeted, “The #WageGap isn’t about isn’t about a few cents — it can mean EVERYTHING to a working woman trying to provide for her family.”
His tweet contained a photo with a caption that stated, “Closing our state’s wage gap would make a $9 billion difference to Missouri women.”
We decided to look into the claim.
National Partnership for Women and Families report
The National Partnership for Women and Families said in a September 2015 report that Missouri women who work full time make on average $10,300 less than Missouri men.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 926,000 women working full time and year-round in Missouri. Multiply that by $10,300 and you get more than $9.5 billion.
The challenge of comparing incomes
Some researchers believe that simply comparing median earnings of male and female workers doesn’t provide a complete picture.
A report from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows some of the wage gap comes down to women and men doing different work and having different career paths. Nevertheless, even after considering these factors, a gap still exists.
“Economic research shows that, even after controlling for work experience, family division of labor and compensating wage differentials for dangerous jobs, there is still an unexplained gender wage gap,” said George-Levi Gayle, an economist and research officer at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.
A study from the Institute for the Study of Labor, an economic research institute based in Bonn, Germany, shows the unexplained wage gap in the United States falls somewhere between 8 percent and 18 percent of the total earnings difference, if the figures are adjusted for additional factors.
Using the high-end estimate, the $9.5 billion figure falls to about $7.5 billion.
Gayle said gender stereotypes and bias can explain the remaining disparities. According to Gayle, this inequality may exist even when people are rational and non-prejudiced.
Koster said closing Missouri’s wage gap could make a $9 billion difference to Missouri women.
There is a wage gap. The latest government numbers show that for men and women working full time year-round in Missouri, the gap is more than $9.5 billion.
Some, but far from all, of the gap is due to bias and discrimination. Economic studies show the wage gap shrinks when you control for factors such as differences in the jobs men and women do and length of time in the workforce.
The bias related portion of the gap could be as much as $7.5 billion. That’s a lot of money, but it isn’t the $9 billion Koster claimed. When we’ve rated such claims before, statements that speak broadly about a wage gap, regardless of the underlying factors, get some benefit of the doubt.
Koster’s claim greatly oversimplifies a very complex situation, but the size of the gap is real. We rate this claim Mostly True.
Supervising editor is Mike Jenner.
Email interview with Sadie Kliner, National Partnership for Women and Families Deputy Communications Coordinator, on Wednesday, May 4, 2016
Email interview with Chris Koster’s campaign, May 5, 2016
PolitiFact Truth-o-Meter article, “Wage gap claim needs more context,” May 4, 2016
National Partnership for Women and Families, “America’s Women and the Wage Gap” May 4, 2016
National Partnership for Women and Families, “Missouri’s Women and the Wage Gap” May 4, 2016
Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Women’s Earnings in Missouri – 2014” May 4, 2016
U.S. Census Bureau, “American FactFinder” May 4, 2016
St. Louis Business Journal, “Missouri women make $9 billion less than men: Report” May 7, 2016
National Women’s Law Center, “Lifetime Wage Gap Losses: State Rankings 2014” May 7, 2016
Email Interview with Laura Girresch and George-Levi Gale, The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, May 10, 2016
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Wage Gap May Be Much Smaller Than Most Think, May 8, 2016
Institute for Study of Labor, “The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends and Explanations,” May 10, 2016