As required by Congress since 1995, the White House annually delivers a report to Congress on July 1 listing the title and salary of every White House Office employee. Here’s the latest 2017 salary report from the Trump White House, which was released to the public last Friday. Based on the 2017 White House salaries, several media outlets have reported that there is about a 20% gender pay gap at the Trump White House, based on the difference in average salaries: $84,500 average for female staffers compared to a $105,000 average for male staffers. See reports here from Roll Call and CNN.
But the gender pay gap at the Trump White House is actually much, much larger by a factor of almost 2x greater than the 20% reported by Roll Call and CNN when median salaries by gender are compared. The top chart above shows that the gender pay gap based on the median salary for women ($72,650) working at the White House and the median salary for male staffers ($115,000) is almost twice as large as what the media is reporting using mean salaries — it’s nearly 37% using median salaries vs. slightly less than 20% using the average salaries.
To be as statistically accurate as possible, almost all reports on pay differences by gender compare median wages, income, or salaries and not differences in average (mean) pay (the same statistical approach applies when home prices are reported). For example, the Roll Call article cites the “Pew Research Center’s most recent statistics on gender pay disparity in the American workforce, where women earn 83% of men’s median hourly earnings.” The CNN report cites a “national average [gender pay gap] of 82 cents on the dollar, according to the Labor Department,” and that gender pay gap is based on gender differences in median weekly earnings. The Census Bureau also reports gender differences in earnings based on differences in median annual earnings.
Therefore, the media reports from Roll Call and CNN correctly report gender differences in pay at the national level using median earnings, but then incorrectly report the gender pay gap at the Trump White House using mean earnings instead of the median salaries. And in the process, both Roll Call and CNN under-estimate the gender pay gap at the White House by almost 50%: 19.6% based on average salaries versus 36.8% based on median salaries.
Here is a summary below of my analysis of White House salaries. Note that the White House only provides names, salaries and position titles for each employee. The gender of each employee then has to be determined from each employee’s name using Internet research, e.g., Facebook, news reports, image searches, Linkedin, Twitter, etc. Based on that research:
1. There are 374 staffers at the Trump White House who are paid employees: 176 women (47.1%) and 198 men (52.9%).
2. The average (mean) salaries are $84,676 for women and $105,373 for men (these figures are almost identical to those reported by Roll Call).
3. The median salaries are $72,648 for women and $115,000 for men. That is, of the 176 women working at the Trump White House, half of them (88) make more than about $72,650 and half (88) make less than that median salary. For men, half of them (99 out of 198) make less than $115,000 and the other half (99) make more than $115,000. From a statistical standpoint, it’s those median salaries that would most accurately reflect what a typical female staffer at the White House is paid compared to what a typical male staffer is paid.
4. The table above helps to illustrate the significant gender pay gap at the Trump White House by graphically displaying the gender disparities in the highest-paid top positions at the White House and the lowest-paid positions. Of the top 101 highest-paid employees at the White House, nearly three out of four (73.3%) are men, and that percentage holds pretty closely for the top 23 (74% male), top 48 (77% male) and top 60 highest-paid staffers (73%). In contrast, of the 102 lowest-paid White House employees, nearly six out of ten (59.2%) are female. It’s those gender disparities, especially for the top 100 highest-paid staffers, that help explain the 37% overall gender pay gap in favor of men.
Bottom Line: Unlike Obama, Trump has not made the gender pay gap an issue and he has never made outrageous (and false) claims like Obama did that “Women are paid 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men.” Further, Trump ignored Equal Pay Day in April this year and didn’t follow in Obama’s eight-year tradition of bringing attention annually to that bogus feminist holiday with a presidential proclamation. So I can’t criticize Trump this year like I have called out Obama in past years for hypocrisy about the gender pay gap, see last year’s CD post here when there was about an 11% gender pay gap at the Obama White House (based on median salaries).
But Trump’s daughter Ivanka has been vocal about Equal Pay Day and the gender pay gap (see her Tweet here and below), as both Roll Call and CNN pointed out.
For Ivanka Trump: If you are going to promote the statistical falsehood behind Equal Pay Day — that gender discrimination is the main explanatory factor for any aggregate, unadjusted gender differences in earnings — then you might want to investigate the whopping 37% (and $42,350) gender pay gap at your father’s White House. If gender differences in median earnings at the national level reflect “unequal pay for equal work,” then wouldn’t that also be the case at the Trump White House? If so, Ivanka should be working really hard to help her father “close the gender pay gap” at the White House, like she pledged in her Tweet above.
For the media: If you report gender differences in median earnings at the national level, then shouldn’t you report differences in median earnings at the Trump White House?
This article was originally published on AEI.org.
Mark J. Perry is concurrently a scholar at AEI and a professor of economics and finance at the University of Michigan's Flint campus. He is best known as the creator and editor of the popular economics blog Carpe Diem. At AEI, Perry writes about economic and financial issues for American.com and the AEIdeas blog. Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_J_Perry.