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Critic explains why Sen. Warren’s newest proposal will fail to solve the gender pay gap

Nick Robertson
·Senior Producer

Senator Elizabeth Warren — who’s made ambitious, detailed policy plans the bedrock of her presidential campaign — now has the pay gap for women of color in her sights.

In a Friday posting on Medium, the democratic presidential candidate promised “day one” executive orders to tackle wage and leadership gaps for female minorities should she win the White House. Her critics have quickly pounced.

“For gender, once you account for differences in education, experience, and lifestyle choices, the gap almost completely disappears,” Joel Griffith, a senior fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation told Yahoo Finance’s The Ticker. And when it comes to race, “when you adjust for education and experience or performance on cognitive tests, that takes care of the gap. It’s not racism that’s the primary factor.”

Correcting “systemic discrimination”

Senator Warren sees long-standing racial prejudices at the core of the wage gap issue.

“For decades, the government has helped perpetuate the systemic discrimination that has denied women of color equal opportunities. It’s time for the government to try to right those wrongs — and boost our economy in the process,” Sen. Warren writes in her Medium post.

The senator’s plan includes denying government contracting opportunities to companies with “poor” records on diversity and equal pay, extending a $15 minimum wage and benefits to all employees of federal contractors, and requiring federal contractors and government agencies to recruit women from historically minority universities.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 02: Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during a community conversation at the East Las Vegas Community Center on July 2, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Polls taken after last week's first Democratic presidential debates show Warren gaining ground with voters. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 02: Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during a community conversation at the East Las Vegas Community Center on July 2, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Polls taken after last week's first Democratic presidential debates show Warren gaining ground with voters. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Yet organizations like the Heritage Foundation see such policy prescriptions as heavy handed and unlikely to bring successful results, arguing that conditions are already improving without them.

For example, according to a study released by the non-partisan Pew Research Center earlier this year, the gender pay gap has been narrowing. In 2018, women earned 85% of what men earned based on median hourly earnings of full and part-time workers. By comparison, the Census Bureau found in 2017 that women working full-time year round earned 80% of their male counterparts.

Critics like Griffith see different institutional forces as a key source of wage problems—most notably in education.

“Look at some of these failing schools, at Los Angeles for example. The last two mayors — democratic mayors — have been pushing for more charter schools so that kids in failing schools have a chance at other avenues. And every step of the way, the public sector teachers unions have fought,” Griffith says.

Despite some signs of progress, Senator Warren does not see things moving fast enough—noting that minority women are getting left too far behind.

"In 2017, Black women were paid 61 cents for every dollar white men made. Native women made 58 cents to a white man’s dollar — and Latinas earned just 53 cents to a white man’s dollar,” she writes.

Will her newest call gain traction in a field with nearly two-dozen competitors?

Watch above for more.

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Nick Robertson is a senior producer at Yahoo Finance.

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