82 Geo. L.J. 121 (1993-1994)
Beyond Equality

handle is hein.journals/glj82 and id is 149 raw text is: Beyond Equality
JENNIFER ROBACK*
One of the peculiar aspects of discussing the gender gap in earnings is
the difficulty of determining exactly what the problem is. Statistical evi-
dence, like that so well surveyed in Jane Friesen's article, Alternative
Economic Perspectives on the Use of Labor Market Policies to Redress the
Gender Gap in Compensation,' is frequently ignored as soon as it is pre-
sented. Moreover, the emotional intensity surrounding the discussion is
typically all out of proportion to the magnitude of the problem as mea-
sured by the data.
I shall explore three major themes. First, why does the statistical evi-
dence presented in Friesen's article seem to be irrelevant to the discus-
sion? I will not say that the discussion proceeds independent of any
evidence, or that people are in any way disingenuous in their use of the
evidence. I will say, rather, that the official evidence is not the real
evidence, upon which people actually make up their minds.
Second, if the official problem of a gap in earnings between women
and men is not the real problem, what is the real problem? Are people
really impassioned by statistical reconstructions of earnings? I doubt it
very much. There is an added twist to this question. If the problem is really
about earnings or even about relative earnings, why is it that high status
women, with high educational attainment and earnings, seem to be the
most distressed, not to say, embittered, about it? It is clear from participat-
ing in this discussion and many others like it, that many women are far
from satisfied, despite the gains in women's economic status. Some argue
that this dissatisfaction arises because the goal of equality has not been
completely achieved. But I will argue that the problem lies in the goal of
equality itself and in the means chosen to attain it.
My third major theme is that equalizing earnings is a flawed social goal.
I do not conclude from this, however, that women ought to retire passively
from public life and return docilely to the kitchen. I believe that improving
the well-being of women is an important and worthy social objective that
requires their full participation in every aspect of American life. What I
* John M. Olin Visiting Scholar at Cornell Law School; Associate Professor of Econom-
ics, George Mason University. I did not talk to anyone while writing this paper. However,
many people have contributed to my thinking on these subjects over the years. Among the
more important contributors are: James Buchanan, Robert Cilinski, Robert Cooter, Susan
Feigenbaum, David Henderson, Jo Kwong, Robert Morse, Jerry Roback, Sherwin Rosen,
Virginia Ross, Nancy Seijas, Robert Sirico, Cathy Smolenske, Betty Tillman, Allyson Tucker,
and Carolyn Weaver. The late Jonathan R.T. Hughes contributed to this paper in a special
way. I would also like to thank Warren Schwartz: he asked the right questions.
1. Jane Friesen, Alternative Economic Perspectives on the Use of Labor Market Policies to
Redress the Gender Gap in Compensation, 82 GEO. L.J. 31 (1993).

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