Opinion

'Allowance gap' ThinkProgress is pushing is fake

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Ashe Schow,War on Women,Income Inequality,ThinkProgress

Since the whole "women make 77 cents on the dollar that men make" outrage fizzled, the Left has needed a new way to tell women in America they are oppressed. Enter ThinkProgress, with an article about a supposed wage gap that begins with young boys and girls receiving different allowances.

“Nearly 70 percent of boys say they get an allowance, compared to just under 60 percent of girls, according to a new survey from Junior Achievement,” ThinkProgress author Bryce Covert wrote.

The link Covert provided goes to a press release about the study from the Allstate Foundation, which co-sponsored the study with Junior Achievement USA. Covert completely ignores the headline of the press release, which is that there is a gender gap among teens planning to attend college.

Why would Covert ignore the main finding of the study? Maybe it’s because that particular gender gap favorsgirls. Yep, 91 percent of girls ages 13-18 said they planned to attend college or a trade school after they graduate from high school, compared to 86 percent of boys.

The survey also found that teen girls are more concerned about how they’ll pay for college, with 79 percent of girls saying they plan to seek scholarships or grants, compared to 66 percent of boys. Also, 66 percent of girls said the rising cost of college had changed their plans, compared to 57 percent of boys. And 40 percent of teen girls said they would consider staying in-state to save on college costs, with just 30 percent of teen boys saying the same.

But anyway, Covert read through all of that plus a couple more paragraphs to find her money stat — that more boys reported receiving an allowance than girls.

Covert, of course, rounded up the numbers to make the reporting gap seem as wide as possible — “nearly 70 percent” for boys and “just under 60 percent” for girls. In reality, the gap isn’t 10 percentage points — it’s eight. Sixty-seven percent of boys reported receiving an allowance, compared to 59 percent of girls.

Now, if you follow the links to the study's executive summary, you'll find that when it comes to getting an allowance for chores, the gap shrinks a little, and the responses drop dramatically.

Fifty-two percent of boys reported receiving an allowance for chores, while 45 percent of girls reported the same — a difference of 7 percentage points.

Here’s the kicker for studies like this: They never say whether there is actual discrimination between boys and girls in the same household. Natalie Watts, Junior Achievement’s manager of communications, told the Washington Examiner that she didn’t know whether households with a boy and a girl were questioned.

“Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing if households had a boy and a girl who participated in the survey,” Watts said. “Therefore, we do not know if parents directly discriminated against their children.”

In other words, studies like this can’t be used to claim discrimination, which is what Covert is trying to do.

Covert goes on to link to a study that found girls do more housework than boys but are less likely to be paid for their work. Regular readers may recall this study as one that was linked to by the "Ban Bossy" campaign (which I debunked back in March).

The Institute for Social Research study does show that boys between the ages of 10 and 18 were more likely to report receiving an allowance for chores than girls (except at age 14, when more girls reported receiving an allowance for chores). But this study, like the first one Covert used, relies on self-reporting, which — as I wrote back in March — is open to bias. But don’t take my word for it, that’s what the ISR study’s author, Frank Stafford, said:

“People simply can’t report accurately what they do. They have a bias depending on the activity.”

So maybe girls are just less likely to report receiving an allowance because people like Covert and the "Ban Bossy" campaign constantly tell them they’re discriminated against.

And, again, that study is missing information about whether boys and girls in the same household received different payment for chores.

Covert's next attempt to push the allowance gap is a link to a New York Times article from 2009 (which provides a link that's no longer active) that said more girls than boys reported being assigned chores. Again, there's that self-reporting.

But anyway, finding the actual “State of the Kid” study online (Tip for reporters: Always best to link to the real study, not an article about the study, and if you can't find the real study, that's probably a sign it's flawed) reveals that girls are not “far more” likely to be assigned chores than boys.

The study found that 73.3 percent of girls and 65.3 percent of boys reported having chores, but the study had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points. Anyone who’s ever taken a first-year statistics class knows that means the real percentage range of chores could be as wide as 78.3 percent for girls to 60.3 percent for boys, or that the numbers could completely flip, with 68.3 percent of girls having chores, compared to 70.3 percent of boys.

And this study also doesn’t measure whether boys and girls in the same household were assigned different amounts of housework.

Further, the 2009 study was the first from Highlights Magazine. The 2010 study asked kids whether they were assigned chores but had no gender breakdown of the responses. The 2011, 2012 and 2013 studies did not ask the question, so there’s no way to tell whether 2009 was an anomaly or a trend.

Highlights Communications Director Marcia Frederick responded to an Examiner request for the 2010 gender breakdown by saying there was no significant gender gap.

“We surveyed 481 children ages 12 and younger that year, and we did not find a significant gender difference in the response to this question,” Frederick said. “58.7 percent of boys stated that they received an allowance, while 60.9 percent of girls said they received an allowance.”

So just going by the same measure Covert used, the 2010 study would seem to indicate that more girls receive an allowance than boys. Of course, the 2010 study had the same margin of error as the 2009 study, so again, those numbers could be reversed or wider.

For good measure, Covert also throws in a link to a European study of a “Nordic welfare state” to further illustrate that boys contribute less to housework.

Next, Covert links to two articles about other studies (because why actually read a study when you can just read what someone else wrote based on a press release?).

The first article Covert linked to again found that boys made more money doing fewer chores than girls.

“One study found that boys spent just 2.1 hours a week on chores and made $48 on average, while girls put in 2.7 hours to make $45,” Covert said.

You'll have to do about three seconds worth of googling to find the actual study (but who has time for that?), which is called the “Kids and Money Report” and was commissioned by Westpac, an Australian bank.

The survey brings up many questions, including the one that no survey seems to answer: whether parents with a boy and a girl pay them differently.

The survey also says that boys and girls do different chores (boys take out the trash and mow the lawn, while girls do dishes and the laundry) but doesn’t say whether boys and girls chose those chores or they were assigned to them.

Alana Stack, general manager for Map and Page, a public relations firm answering questions about the survey, told the Examiner she was sure that parents with boys and girls were questioned, but there was no way to tell in the data whether they treated their children differently.

Stack also said she believed that some chores were designated by parents and some were selected by children, so Covert can't really claim discrimination if some children chose to mow the lawn or do the laundry.

"My recollection is that it wasn’t asked, but I believe the outcome was a mix of self-nomination from children based on what they like to do as well as what parents assigned," Stack said.

The second article Covert linked to about boys getting paid more for chores talks about a study that -- surprise! -- I debunked in March. The actual study doesn't appear to be online, and an Examiner request for the study was never answered.

The unanswered questions from this study are whether parents of boys and girls paid them differently, whether parents felt they needed to give boys more of an incentive to do house work and whether girls were paid less because they did more chores.

But Covert isn’t satisfied to tell women they were discriminated against in their own homes, no, she wants to tell women that they were discriminated against in what was probably their first jobs — babysitting.

“Young girls suffer a wage gap even when they leave their home in search of wages,” Covert said. “Despite the fact that the vast majority of babysitters are girls, the few boys who take on those jobs have higher hourly rates.”

The study Covert is referring to comes from Pricenomics Data Crawling, which found that the median rate a female babysitter charges is $14.50 per hour, while the median rate a male babysitter charges is $15 per hour. Discrimination!

Notice that this is what the babysitters charge, not what people have decided to pay them. And, as Covert mentions, the vast majority (97.1 percent) of babysitters are women. Just 2.9 percent are men. So that’s a far smaller sample to find the median to begin with.

The sample size for this survey, which was conducted by looking at babysitter profiles online in large cities (not small cities and certainly not taking into account the number of parents that ask their neighbor or family member to babysit) was more than 175,000.

This means that of the online babysitter profiles, at least 169,925 were for women, and only 5,075 were for men. The median would probably change if the sample sizes were similar.

But again, this study doesn’t show discrimination in payment, it shows discrimination in charging, which lends more credence to the argument that women tend to not negotiate for their own salary as much as men.

An Examiner request for comment was unanswered at press time.

And let’s not forget that this shows a massive discrimination against men as babysitters, with respondents to the survey saying things like “I personally would have a hard time hiring a male babysitter for obvious reasons.”

Obvious reasons? What obvious reasons? There’s actual discrimination, but a woman said it, so that makes it okay, right?

And no ThinkProgress wage gap article would be complete without dredging up already debunked studies about how women are paid less than men. The study that the Left loves to claim shows that women are paid unequally, even when things like degree and education are taken into account, comes from the American Association of University Women.

Does that sound familiar? It should, because the study, which said there was a wage gap right out of college, was thoroughly debunked by American Enterprise Scholar Christina Hoff Sommers and Economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth. They found that the AAUW didn't actually compare apples to apples, as the Left tries to claim, because they lumped “social science” majors into one category -- meaning male economists were compared to female sociologists -- a big difference in income.

So Covert and ThinkProgress can keep pretending there’s some massive discrimination going on by pointing to studies that don’t actually show discrimination, but they do a disservice to the problems real women face. To be sure, discrimination must happen somewhere, but making women feel like they’re victims even if they don’t personally have evidence creates a culture of paranoia and hostility toward innocent men.

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