Thursday, April 23, 2015

PolitiFact Georgia, PolitiMath and the gender pay gap

On April 22, 2015, PolitiFact Georgia found it "Mostly False" that women make only 78 percent of what men make for doing the same work.

PolitiFact Georgia reported that the claim, from a Buzzfeed video, based its claim on statistics that, among other faults, did not bother to ensure that the men and women were doing the same work.

At Zebra Fact Check I've published an in-depth treatment of the way mainstream fact checkers mishandle the gender pay gap. But here we'll look narrowly at how PolitiFact Georgia applies a "Mostly False" rating to a gross exaggeration. Our "PolitiMath" stories explore the relationship between percentage error and PolitiFact's ratings, so PolitiFact Georgia's story makes a good subject.

PolitiFact's highest estimate of the wage gap after controlling for the type of job and some other factors was about 7 percent:
(T)he American Association of University Women that controlled for college major, occupation, age, geographical region, hours worked and more, and found there was still a 7 percent wage gap between male and female college grads a year after graduation.
Using that high-end estimate, the Buzzfeed video exaggerated by no less than 214 percent. There's precedent for liberals receiving ratings of "Mostly False" or better for exaggerations that large and larger. On the other hand, PolitiFact Wisconsin gave a state Democrat a "False" rating for an exaggeration of 114 percent.

At least we know Buzzfeed's exaggeration is not the largest to receive a rating of "Mostly False" or higher.

If anyone can find a statement from a Republican or conservative where a figure exaggerated by more than 100 percent received a rating of "Mostly False" or higher from PolitiFact, we'd love to hear about it. We haven't turned up anything like that yet.

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