Sunday, April 17, 2016

It's Complicated

I've often said the only real privilege I get as chief bottle washer blogger in chief around here is to occasionally turn a long comment into a posting. 

With that in mind, I want to draw your attention to the post "Let's Talk About Young Women" from Friday.  Someone whose blog I read all the time - which means someone whose opinions I respect - DiveMedic from Confessions of a Street Pharmacist posted about his experiences with his fiance' and pay inequality.  DM said that he had recently started teaching high school and since he was paid too closely to what she gets paid was thinking maybe there is something to this pay inequality stuff we hear about.  Note he wasn't being paid more than her, just that in his opinion, he wasn't getting paid far enough less than her. 

Let me summarize here.  She has a Masters Degree, he doesn't.  Instead, he has three Bachelor's Degrees.  Because of the Masters, she can teach dual enrollment (high school/junior college) classes he can't.  On the other hand, he's a science teacher and STEM teachers are in demand.  (A search for "STEM Teachers in Demand" returns over 50 million hits).  Given all that, his concern is that she only makes about $2000 more than he does. 

To begin with, I'm almost 100% void of any real knowledge here.  I've never taught college or high school.  I worked my entire life in the electronics manufacturing industry, since my first full time job as an electronics technician.  Over the years, I did have to interview and hire many folks.  For a brief period, I hired technicians and quality control inspectors (both hourly, non-union jobs) then moved on to hiring engineers (salaried jobs).  I have no idea what DM or his fiance' make in dollars.  On the other hand, teachers' pay ranges are public information and I searched for the pay ranges in my county (pdf warning) and I'm going play with numbers a bit here to see what they tell me.  (Always bearing in mind that "if you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything").  I'm specifically using my county because I'm all but certain DM doesn't live or work here, and I have no desire to impose on anyone's privacy. 

An entry level teacher in my county, baseline '08, made $36,000.  A Master's Degree added $2625 to that base salary.  It appears that for a teacher with any number of years experience at the Bachelor's level, if you add a Master's degree, you add that incentive ($2625) to your pay.   There is a thing called a Specialist Degree which adds a larger incentive than the Master's degree, but not as much as a Ph.D.  In my county, that's $3900. 

Briefly, when you compare a Master's level teacher with eight years experience to a newbie Bachelor's level teacher, the experienced teacher should be making $5491 more.  So why would the difference be the lower amount DM quotes ($2000)?  The obvious place to look is qualifications.  I don't have anything to offer guidance for applicants with multiple bachelor's degrees, but they're apparently being used for something here.  If they were construed by the hiring managers to be equivalent to the "specialist degree", the expected difference drops down to $1591. 

If I try to look for an analogy to places I've worked, I think of needing an engineer for a specialized arena; RF design (Radio Frequency) - my specialty.  Because it's an advanced field, I start out saying I'm looking for an MSEE.  Now let's say I get an applicant with a BSEE degree, and BS in Physics.  In other aspects of the interview, they impress me that their physics experience adds something worthwhile to their profile.  What would I do?  I would probably recognize the second BS by more pay than an average BSEE, but not as much as a full MS.  What if this applicant had a BSEE, a BS in Physics and a BS in Math, or perhaps Mechanical Engineering?  Probably more along the same lines. 

In the case of DM and his three BS degrees vs his fiance with an MS, it could be the difference seems a little out of line, but by looking at numbers (which are seven years old) I can't say, "no, he should be making $2500 less than her", or any other number.  He does seem to be getting lots of credit for the three BS degrees.  On the other hand, I could certainly accept that the difference is a hiring manager's decision.  Not everything in life gets put into handy little boxes on forms, and while that's forever the dream of the cry-bullies and petty tyrants, it just doesn't always work out that way.

In general, when you hear the term "income inequality", it's referring to some ill-defined notion that jobs "women typically do" and jobs "men typically do" pay differently just because they're men and women.  Because of that equivalent jobs should get equal pay and they try to enforce that notion.  It's not men or women in the same job in the same industry, like this is.  In reality, the term income inequality is absurd on its face; of course some jobs are harder than others and demand more pay.  What they're trying to create is a world where job pay rates aren't set by market forces, but by a tyranny that decides what everyone will earn. 


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  2. Lol sorry, had to edit it. Heck, even *Wikipedia* (a *totally* unbiased acknowledges that many respected, reliable authorities are of the opinion that "income inequality" is 99% bullshit! (Pardon the profanity) They spend more time blathering about the BS than admitting that they're full of it, but they do, grudgingly, in a very roundabout fashion, admit it, here (archived just in case):
    It's actually 100%, but that's asking for too much from them. It's amazing that they were even a *little* honest. God bless! :-)

  3. What they're trying to create is a world where job pay rates aren't set by market forces, but by a tyranny that decides what everyone will earn.

    And right there you've broken the secret code on this "pay inequality" crap.

    Notice that most (but not all) of this "inequality" stuff revolves around public sector employment where compensation is based on time-in-position charts, degrees obtained (and I specifically used "obtained" rather than "earned"), in direct conflict with the principle of "achievements accomplished" (that which is not public sector seem to be highly bureaucratic organizations which place greater value on "process" instead of "results").

    I'm from the IT world where what you can do is worth more than what sheepskins you've acumulated. The best systems analyst I ever hired had a BA in Animal Husbandry, accompanied by a decade-long history of proving she could walk on water as far as managing multiple very complex systems was concerned. Damn right she was paid well, much better than the computer science newbies-with-a-degree we got so many resumes from.

    It comes down to this: Do you want the guy who graduated from Johns Hopkins Med with a 4.2 GPA doing your heart bypass, or the guy who graduated from State U and whose team has 160 successful bypass operations under their belts?

    The new JH surgeon will get hired by Local General Hospital to much acclaim and paid at the top of the range for the job category, the other will be a hired gun working for whomever pays 2X-5X the JH's rate, and earning it, because he knows it's his skill and reputation that keep him in business. The JH grad will do yeoman's work as he learns more, the other guy gets the impossible patients because he's demonstrated he's just that good.

    Real World vs Artificially Created World.

    1. Coming from the tech world, one of the things I liked about it the most was that it was probably the most perfect meritocracy there is. If you can do the job, you get the job. Your example of the systems analyst with BA in Animal Husbandry is a perfect example. I've also run into more than a few biologists and other unexpected degrees who were strong in their tech field.

      It's true the major companies I've worked for would list a BS degree to be an engineer, but virtually every company had an "or equivalent" kind of phrase in there and would promote an occasional really great technician to be an engineer. It's just that path wasn't the fastest or easiest way to get the job! As someone said, nobody got fired for hiring the guy with the 3.0 or better average from a good BSEE program, but it's riskier to recommend the technician.

      Yeah, I want the guy who's the "Joe Montana of bypass surgeons", not necessarily the guy on the top of his med school class. They're not necessarily the same skill sets.

  4. I don't know what county he is from, however there are many counties where the pay increases are based on credits beyond a bachelor's degree, not on whether another degree is earned or not. In some of those counties, his 2nd and 3rd degrees would put his pay above her's for the same years of service, or similar if she had more years of service.
    From what I know, there are MANY factors that come into play in determining teacher pay, and the weight of each factor varies wildly from district to district. For example, in the district I grew up in, all teachers had a masters degree and many had a doctorate because the district encouraged it (this was before they were required, as they are now in many states), paid for it, and paid higher wages once it was attained. On the other hand, I had family who worked in a district 20 minutes away which had FAR fewer teachers with advanced degrees since the district did not provide support and encouragement for further schooling and in fact disincentivised it because they would force teachers with additional schooling to take on additional administrative responsibilities they didn't want; it was widely known that that district didn't want to pay extra for advanced schooling as required by state law.

  5. I work as a staff technician for Large California State University. I have seen lecturers with real world knowledge teach circles around PhDs with half their brain tied behind their back. Guess who gets paid more? Oh yes, part of it is the PhD, but most of it is the California Faculty Association union negotiated pay scale.

  6. About 37 years ago a nieghbor in a midwest city with a masters in nuclear engineering worked in a nuclear bomb factory 7 stories underground in one of the ubiquitous federal buildings in this mid sized town. I'm sure the number of people living there who knew atom bombs were made there was well under 50 people. This guy was a critical part of the military nuclear weapon system and as an expert he would be suddenly called off for weeks at a time whenever there was a "accident" involving nuclear materials. He was second in authority there and his boss was due to retire so he was holding his breath hoping to become the top dog. One day his boss called him in to give him the news; he had just hired a recent graduate with a doctorate in biology; a black woman. My friend was speechless but somehow managed to ask why he didn't get the job. Well, the boss explained, there was pressure for more diversity and by hiring a black women he would get TWO diversity stars so it was a real coup. The boss was actually quite proud of himself. My friend pointed out that they handled/machined plutonium there and it took years of training and experience to do it safely how could this new hire right out of college be expected to do the job. The boss told him with confidence that making sure she didn't kill herself and others and still got the work out was HIS job and THAT was why he could hire a twofer who knew nothing. She would make a fine figurehead and that meant more than equality, fairness, safety or even getting the job done.

    1. The perfect answer to that is for your neighbor to drop his badge on the boss' desk and say, "Find Yourself Another Boy - I'm outta here". That is, unfortunately, a card that is really hard to play. A card that one doesn't usually even get the chance to play. Maybe once in your life. But the boss who hired the unqualified should be made to pay.

    2. Especially since if he DARED to do any such thing, he would be labeled as a racist and the FedGov would insure he would NEVER hold another job in the nuclear industry ever again.

    3. I'm not even going to try to articulate my level of disgust and outrage (emphasis on the "rage") upon hearing such an insane, horrifying story. I must however ask...what happened next? I suppose the "diversity hire" was prevented from getting anyone killed, but...what did your friend do? My goodness...what a sick, sick world we live in.

    4. My friend was not stupid and knew he was holding a losing hand so since he was vested and still only 40 he put his resume out and got hired by a semi government agency. I don't know what happened at the "bomb factory" because once my friend left he was not privy to any information. I suspect that the woman supervisor saw the handwriting on the wall and moved on to another government position. I didn't know her, she could have been a competent biologist so who knows maybe she found her niche.

      What was always surprising to me was that they machined plutonium in the 7th basement of a federal building in a midwestern city. makes me wonder what else we don't know.