Here’s a follow-up letter to my correspondent from this morning:
Thanks for your follow-up e-mail.
I regret that you find “simplistic” what you call my “economics self interest explanation of pay [differences between] men and women employees.”
I’ll grant that because the U.S. Soccer Federation is a not-for-profit organization its decisions on pay (and other matters) aren’t driven as much by competitive market forces as are the decisions of most employers. Not-for-profit organizations do indeed have a greater scope to unjustly discriminate than do for-profit organizations. And so it might well be that there’s merit in the lawsuit brought by the women soccer players
But I don’t believe that the economic explanation for pay differences generally is more simplistic than is an explanation centered on bigotry. Nothing, I think, is as simplistic as observing a difference in men’s and women’s pay and then ascribing that difference to employers’ motives.
Allow me one more attempt to persuade you. Suppose that I start a new professional football league, the GFL – the Geezer Football League. In my league I hire as players only men ages 60 and older. Do you doubt that the pay of even the most talented GFL players would be no higher than a tiny fraction of the pay of the most ordinary player today in the NFL?
How would you explain this pay difference? Some people might try to explain it by screaming “age discrimination!” Yet surely you know better. You understand that the public’s demand to watch old men play football is not and never will be as intense as is the public’s demand to watch young men do the same. This difference in demand for watching NFL games as compared to GFL games is sufficient to explain, without resort to allegations of unsavory motives, why players in my GFL would be paid far less than are players in the NFL.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030