Economics Professor: White House Holds Itself to a Different Standard on Gender Pay Equity

A day before President Barack Obama is scheduled to take executive action to address women’s pay equity, White House press secretary Jay Carney struggled to defend the White House’s own gender pay gap.

President Barack Obama meets with members of the Democratic Governors Association, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington. From left are senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz, and director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Obama has repeatedly said that on the national average, women earn 77 cents for every $1 a man earns. However, using that same criteria, women working in the White House earn just 88 cents for every $1 men earn. The average pay for women working in the White House is $65,000, according to the Sept. 5, 2013 study; that’s compared to $73,729 for men.

“Obviously, at the 88 cents you cite, that is not 100, but it is better than the national average,” Carney told reporters Monday. “When it comes to the bottom line that women who do the same work as men have to be paid the same, there is no question that is happening here at the White House.”

The key is the same job, which is not the measure the administration uses in arriving at the 77 cents figure, said Mark Perry, an economics professor the University of Michigan and a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

“This is how the White House measures the rest of society, but not how they measure their own,” Perry told TheBlaze. “The point I’m making is it’s not legitimate to say women are paid 77 cents per every $1 a man is paid because they are not discussing the variables and factors. They are looking at raw wages. I looked at all White House employees’ raw wages.”

The White House has about 550 employees.

Tuesday is designated “Equal Pay Day” by National Committee for Pay Equity.

On Tuesday, Obama is signing an executive order to stop federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their compensation with one another. This harkens back to equal pay activist Lilly Ledbetter who was being paid less than men for doing the same job, but didn’t find out until the statute of limitations had expired for a discrimination lawsuit.

Obama is also directing the Labor Department to create regulations to require federal contractors to provide summary data on employee compensation that includes race and gender.

Perry did not believe the White House was discriminating against women, but he said most employers could make the same claim as Carney, but that is not how the White House calculates.

“It’s not a comparison of position to position. Once you do that there is little difference,” Perry said.

Perry further cited a 2005 study by former Congressional Budget Office director June O’Neill that found that “comparing the wage gap between women and men ages 35-43 who have never married and never had a child, we find a small observed gap in favor of women.”

Carney stressed that some of the most senior White House officials are women, citing National Security Adviser Susan Rice, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, counsel Kathryn Ruemmler and director of domestic policy Cecile Munoz, among others.

“We have two deputy chiefs of staff, one man and one woman,” Carney said. “They make the same salary. We have 16 department heads. Over half of them are women. All of them make the same salary as their male counterparts. It is worth noting, as anyone who participates in senior staff meetings can see, that we have here in the White House, over the half the staff are women and filling key senior leadership roles across the board.”