The Incompatibility of Feminism and the Minimum Wage

In this article, my goal is to convey why feminists cannot logically support current minimum wage legislation. For the purposes of this argument,

A feminist is someone who:

  1.  Opposes systems which disproportionally advantage men over women; and
  2.  Believes that the wage gap exists

This may not truly represent what it means to be a feminist, but it is fair to say that most feminists meet both of these qualifications. If you are a feminist who does not meet these qualifications, then this article does not apply to you. It is, however, easier to refer to this bundle of beliefs as “feminism” for the sake of making a concise argument.

The wage gap is the belief that, on average, women get paid 77 cents for every dollar a man makes while doing the same work.

A libertarian is a person who, among other things, opposes the minimum wage and does not believe that the wage gap exists.

The Case Against the Wage Gap

Libertarians claim that if you control for all factors— including hours worked, life choices, and field of study— you find that women get paid the same amount as men for the same work. But Libertarians take things one step further. Not only do they believe that the wage gap does not exist, they believe that it cannot exist.

They prove that it is in a firm’s best economic interest to pay women the same as men:

Wage Gap Irrationality Proof

> Imagine that women earn 30% less than men.

> Instead of offering a man $100,000, a company could offer a woman a job for $80,000 and save $20,000

> It is in every company’s interest to maximize profits and, therefore, they would all do this until the average wage of women equaled 80% that of men.

> Once the wage gap was reduced to 20%, companies would offer jobs to women for $90,000 in order to save $10,000 by the same logic.

> Women would then make 90% of what men did and the process would repeat itself until the market reached perfect efficiency and the wage gap was eliminated.

While this is objectively the best way to maximize profits, it only applies to a world in which sexism does not play a role. The libertarian viewpoint that the wage gap cannot exist depends solely upon the notion that firms would rather make profit than be sexist. Let’s call this assumption the “Conjecture of Efficient Markets”.

The Feminist Perspective

Since (according to condition 2) Feminists believe that the wage gap does exist, they must also believe that it can exist. Unless they disagree with the logic presented in the Wage Gap Irrationality Proof, they must, therefore, object to the Conjecture of Efficient Markets.

In other words, since Feminists cannot prove that it is economically rational to pay women less than men, they must believe that the wage gap exists because business owners value it more than profit. Let’s call this belief the “Theory of Patriarchal Pervasiveness

The Minimum Wage

Libertarians oppose the minimum wage and my argument is that Feminists should too.

According to condition 2, feminists believe that the wage gap exists. Therefore, on average, they believe that when a man gets paid $16/hr, a woman gets paid ($16 * .77 =) $12.32/hr.

But this is where it gets good, so let’s recap:

A feminist is someone who:

  1. Opposes systems which disproportionally advantage men over women; and
  2. Believes that the wage gap exists

Libertarians do not believe that the wage gap exists because of the “Wage Gap Irrationality Proof” and the “Conjecture of Efficient Markets”

Feminists reject the “Conjecture of Efficient Markets” because they accept the “Theory of Patriarchal Pervasiveness”, which is the belief that companies would rather maintain the wage gap than increase profits.

Now imagine that the minimum wage increased to $15/hr and notice that 15 is greater than 12.32— making the woman’s wage illegal. A rational person might suggest that the business owner should increase the woman’s wage to $15/hr. This would maximize profits because $15/hr is cheaper than the man’s wage of $16/hr and would give the employer a gain of $1 per hour compared to an employer who only hired men.

But, as we had previously established, feminists believe in the Theory of Patriarchal Pervasiveness. Therefore, they believe that businesses prioritize maintaining the wage gap over maximizing profits. Reflect back to the example in the Wage Gap Irrationality Proof. They were in the same situation. They could have hired a woman for more than the wage gap and made the difference between the two genders’ wages in profit, but (according to feminists) they were so sexist that they refused to do so. Why, then, would they do it after a minimum wage hike?

According to the feminist Theory of Patriarchal Pervasiveness, they won’t. Since they won’t be willing to pay women more than the wage gap, they won’t hire them at all.

Before the minimum wage hike, women at least had the option to work, and afterward, all of their job prospects became illegal.  Feminists must, therefore, believe that this would create massive unemployment among low-income women. Men, on the other hand, would not be affected since their wages are above the minimum level. Is it a coincidence that men like Bernie Sanders have pushed for a higher minimum wage than Hillary Clinton? If women are unemployed, I guess they can “get back in the kitchen”. Since this is a system that disproportionately favors men over women, it violates condition 1 of feminism and is, therefore, an inconsistent policy for them to support.

Until the wage gap is eliminated, feminists should refrain from supporting minimum wage legislation. According to their own beliefs, even raising the minimum wage first and fixing the wage gap after would adversely affect millions of women across the country.


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Source: Liam Cardenas

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