Economist Romina Boccia Talks Wage Gap at Catholic U

Courtesy of Boccia’s Twitter profile

By Eva Lynch

Romina Boccia, leading economist at the Heritage Foundation and director of the Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget, came to campus to speak to students about the validity of the wage gap at an event entitled, “Do Women Really Make Less Than Men?” This event took place on January 28 in a Pryzbyla Center conference room.Boccia’s work at the Heritage Foundation encompasses a wide variety of salient economic issues in the United States, including the pursuit of economic freedom, control of the government’s size and scope, and Social Security reform. She has spoken around the world, including in Sweden and Japan. Further, she has advised congressmen and testified before the House and Senate congressional committees.

This event was put on by Network of Enlightened Women, or NeW, a new student organization on campus dedicated to educating young women on conservative principles and providing opportunities through which to discuss these principles, according to the Nest. Organizers of the event reported over 50 attendees who enjoyed Georgetown Cupcake and an enlightening lecture. 

Boccia began her presentation by sharing her own story of the American Dream as a German immigrant, having just become an official U.S. citizen last August. Boccia said her own experience with the American Dream, combined with the immense responsibility she feels to identify and eliminate potential barriers to anyone’s American Dream, prompted her research into heavily contested economic issue. 

Boccia then prompted the audience to think if the American Dream is actually achievable in our society, or if we are stuck in a stark dichotomous hole. She stated that people can either realize their full potential, be rewarded for hard work and taking risks, and live their own version of the American Dream. The other option is to live in constant systematic discrimination against women and other minorities. Boccia says our economic decisions determine our fate.

As she shifted to focus on the main topic of her presentation, Boccia was sure to define the wage gap as simply how much women make compared to men. But, Boccia said, this gap cannot be measured how it is currently being so. As of now, the “median weekly earnings” of women are divided by those of men, and the resulting number is the raw wage gap. The most recent statistic proposes women make 82 cents on the dollar, compared to men.

But, Boccia pointed out, those who are only looking at this raw number do not take into consideration a number of factors which skew what actually goes into a salary, and, Boccia says, when we account for these factors, the wage gap “all but disappears.” Some of these mitigating factors include choice of industry, parenthood or marital status, education, and tenure. 

She also said that when hours worked are taken into account, half the wage gap is explained. She cited studies which show that there is a difference between women, especially women with children, and everyone else in hours worked because mothers are more likely to choose getting home to their children over working overtime for a little extra on the paycheck. According to Boccia’s statistics, 70% of working moms reported that a flexible schedule is important to them, and working dads were more likely to report that a career and a job that gives them status were more important. 

Then Boccia shifted to an even bigger question: is this an issue that we as a society need to address? This question breeds others: can we address if it is primarily driven by the choices people make? Will we allow people to live their own American Dream or will we victimize them because the result of these choices is a perceived inequality?

Boccia also noted the tendency to overlook other areas where women are not just meeting but surpassing men, such as women now earning more degrees than men. 

Boccia closed by pleading with her audience to forgo worrying about the wage gap and shift focus to areas of the world where women experience more brutal inequalities.

Overall, Boccia offered an economist’s perspective on the traditional conservative talking points regarding the issue of the wage gap between men and women. Her presentation exposed the possible misnomer of the “wage gap” but proved that its existence lies in unconsidered factors which contribute to the determination of one’s salary.

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