Gender pay gap starts -- in childhood?

A study says so. Therefore, it must be true!

Are you concerned about the gender pay gap? Better act fast. According to an article in The New York Times, the pay gap starts way before men and women enter the work force.

In fact, it starts way before they graduate from high school. 

In fact, it may start before elementary school. 

She wouldn't be so friendly if she knew his allowance was twice as big.

How do we know this? Because BusyKid, a smartphone "chore app," says so. 

According to its FAQs, BusyKid allows parents to list chores and kids to check them off when they're completed, and it also provides for cashless transactions. In other words, parents can pay their kids' allowances, and the kids can collect and even invest their money, through the app. For an annual fee of $14.95, the whole family can even share a BusyKid Spend Card (prepaid Visa card).

Neat-sounding app, but their equal pay methodology leaves something to be desired.

Are users of a chore-and-allowance app representative of U.S. families as a whole?

In any event, BusyKid says that its data on 10,000 families who use the app showed that boys got $13.80 a week for doing chores around the house, while girls got only $6.71.

Holy Toledo! That's quite a gender allowance gap! 

Since this study actually made it into The New York Times, it's worth pointing out everything that's missing from it before we start getting demands for Congress to pass an "Equal Allowance Act":

No. 1: As already noted, we don't know whether the 10,000 families who use the BusyKid app are representative of the population of U.S. kids who do household chores and get allowances.

No. 2: We don't know whether the chores performed by the BusyKid boys are the same as, or comparable with, the chores performed by the BusyKid girls. 

No. 3: Indeed, we don't even have a breakdown of the number of boys who were included in the study versus the number of girls. Hmmmm.

No. 4: There is no breakdown by age. One would expect that older kids -- who can mow the lawn and do other "grown-up" chores, and who also have more expensive forms of amusement -- might receive bigger allowances than younger ones. (In fact, BusyKid itself says its pre-loaded chore lists are age-appropriate.) What if most of the boys who use BusyKid are in their teens and most of the girls are in third grade?

No. 5: There is no indication that the study controlled for family income. How could it? Presumably, BusyKid would not have access to that information. Failure to control for family income is a fatal flaw in an "equal pay" study involving kids.

No. 6: Most importantly, there is no indication that the study controlled for family, period. As in, "The Smiths, who have four daughters, give their daughters $0.50 a week, but only if the girls make their beds, vaccuum the living room, mow the lawn, prepare one dinner a week, and do the dishes on the nights that they aren't cooking." Meanwhile, "The Joneses, who have four sons, give their boys $50 a week if they remember to flush at least once a day. Exceptions are made when, in the opinion of the boys, extenuating circumstances exist."

*sigh* "I wish we'd keep up with the Joneses."

Presumably, the Smiths would be equally tough on their sons if they had any, and the Joneses would be equally easy on their daughters if they had any. Or maybe not. But you can't use a disparity between two different families to prove sex discrimination.

In short, it appears that this study proves as little as the statistic that shows adult women in the workforce earn only 80-some cents for every dollar that a man earns. (Which is true, but as you know if you regularly read this blog, this statistic is meaningless because it does not control for position held, industry, employer, educational background, time in the workforce, part-time status, full-time status, geography, work history, or anything else except whether the workers are male or female.)

I am not a gender-pay-gap denier -- the pay gap exists -- but proponents have yet to prove to me that any significant portion of it is due to sex discrimination by employers. This allowance study doesn't change that.

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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