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  1. Florida Politics

PunditFact: Fact-checking claims about women

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 6: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks with the news media after delivering a speech titled, "Renewing the Opportunity for Prosperity: Economic Freedom Zones" at the Detroit Economic Club December 6, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. As part of his plan to help save Detroit, the largest city in U.S. history to go bankrupt, and other economically depressed areas, the Senator will introduce legislation that will create so-called "economic freedom zones" by lowering taxes in those areas and change the Visa rules to help make it easier for foreign entrepreneurs to immigrate to economically depressed cities. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 6: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) speaks with the news media after delivering a speech titled, "Renewing the Opportunity for Prosperity: Economic Freedom Zones" at the Detroit Economic Club December 6, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. As part of his plan to help save Detroit, the largest city in U.S. history to go bankrupt, and other economically depressed areas, the Senator will introduce legislation that will create so-called "economic freedom zones" by lowering taxes in those areas and change the Visa rules to help make it easier for foreign entrepreneurs to immigrate to economically depressed cities. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Published Dec. 1, 2014

Next time you find yourself sitting next to an anthropologist at a bar, ask him or her if moving away from traditional roles tends to make a society spend a lot of time talking about the status of women.

PunditFact tackled claims this year about women and domestic violence, equal pay, the cost of their health care, how many women go to medical school, and whether pregnancy drives them into poverty. Here are our top six fact-checks tied to gender.

Which is deadlier, war or domestic violence?

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem said more women have been killed by their husbands or boyfriends since Sept. 11 than "all the Americans who were killed by 9/11 or in Afghanistan and Iraq."

You can argue about the significance of such a comparison, but on the numbers, she is accurate.

James A. Fox, a Northeastern University criminology professor, found that from 2002 to 2012, the number of women killed by intimate partners was 15,462.

Fewer than 3,000 Americans died in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. (There were 2,978 victims, but that includes people from 90 countries.) American deaths tied to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq total 6,838, according the Pentagon. Together, there were about 9,838 deaths, which is below the lowest estimate of women killed by their partners.

We rated the claim True.

Newborns and poverty risk

Advocacy group Moms Rising tweeted, "Having a baby is a leading cause of poverty spells in the United States." In fact, the numbers show losing a job is the biggest factor.

Based on 1998 government data, about a quarter of all spells of poverty begin with the birth of a child. But that information indicated three-quarters of poverty spells stemmed from losing work hours.

Drilling deeper, we found an Urban Institute study that teased out the relative impact of different life events, which took into account that events can overlap, such as when having a child leads to the loss of a job. However, out of the seven events the study assessed, having a child ranked in the bottom three, and it was about a third as potent a factor as job loss.

We rated the claim False.

Women in advanced fields

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was talking about how far the country had come in terms of gender equality when he claimed "over half" of medical, dental and law school students are women.

If Paul had just talked about how many men and women are getting advanced degrees of any sort, he would have been right.

But for medical, dental and law school students, the percentages for women are a hair under 47 percent in every case. To state the obvious, this is less than half.

The claim rates False.

Paying more for health care

In the dissenting opinion of the Hobby Lobby case, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, "Women of childbearing age spend 68 percent more in out-of-pocket health care costs than men."

Ginsburg largely had it right. For 2011, women between 18 and 44 had out-of-pocket expenses that averaged 69 percent higher than men of the same age range, according to the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey of the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

It's just about certain Ginsburg relied on numbers dating to 1994. The percentages hadn't changed in two decades.

There are some other recent estimates that find women pay 40 to 50 percent more. Still, experts didn't doubt that women of childbearing age tend to pay more for health care. We rated the claim Mostly True.

Young, single and making more than guys

Conservative pundit Genevieve Wood aimed to give a more nuanced take on the gender pay gap, noting "young women today in metropolitan areas" who are childless and single are out-earning childless, single young males.

Wood's source is a 2010 analysis of census data by Reach Advisors, a private research firm in New York. The study says in 2008, the median full-time salaries of single, childless women in the country's metropolitan areas were 8 percent higher than those of the guys in their peer group.

This study makes no allowance for different jobs women might hold. The study's author said these women were 50 percent more likely to have graduated from college than their male counterparts. With higher skills, they got better paying jobs.

But as far as Wood's statement went, we rated it Mostly True.

The gender pay gap

A common Democratic claim is women "make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns." President Barack Obama said this in his State of the Union address. The statement is largely accurate because Obama didn't say women are paid less for doing the same job as men.

For many reasons, women tend to work in jobs that pay less. The work that has been done suggests there is a pay gap for equal work, but not as large as it has been stated.

Obama, however, stayed on safer ground. According to the Census Bureau, women who worked full-time, year-round in 2012 made 77 cents for every dollar men earned.

There are alternative measurements. For example, looking at women who worked full-time in wage and salary jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found women made 82 percent of what men made. But that didn't include anyone who was self-employed.

Opinions vary on how much of the gap is due to discrimination. Some estimates ranged from 40 percent to 5 percent.

On the whole, the claim is Mostly True.