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December 1985, Vol. 108, No. 12
how do we know it will work?
The title of this article poses a question to which there is a very short answer. We don't. We are completely unable to predict the outcomes of an effective comparable worth policy, whether mandated by law or adopted by private decisionmakers. Our ignorance stems from the lack of data with which to build a viable economic model. The issue is, of course, too new for historical evidence or even case studies to provide much help.
The dearth of useful data is due primarily to the fact that comparable worth itself comprises several different issues. Most of these issues have, in fact, emerged from analyzing statistics gathered for other purposes. But comparable worth has frequently been proposed as a solution without clearly defining the problem, partly because of insufficient data, and partly because of insufficient analysis of existing data.
The following discussion will elaborate on these statements. It concludes that efforts to design data collecting systems or even to tabulate and amass those data that already exist lag behind efforts to litigate and legislate comparable worth. It is highly likely, therefore, that comparable worth as a policy will be adopted or rejected on the basis of factors other than reasoned analysis.
This excerpt is from an article published in the December 1985 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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