Tuesday was the supposed equal pay day, so named by several feminist organizations to denote the wages women earn compared to men in aggregate. However, this is a convenient way to look at things. It is similar to the “it’s not fair that the top 1 percent of Americans hold about 24% of the wealth, they should pay more in taxes!”, as the President is essentially promoting. Then you realize this 1 percent of the population already pays approximately 38% of the tax bill and 47% of Americans pay no federal taxes, which is akin to the feminist argument. Or as put by Mark Twain, “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics”

It is true that numbers can be contorted or analyzed in a way to show many things like “Donald Trump is the second choice today among Republicans!‘ This particular poll means very little because the total number of candidate choices available to those polled skew the results (over ten). However, the statement of Trump being second choice of Republicans behind Mitt Romney sounds very significant until you realize he was selected by only 17% of those polled. That’s the equivalent of saying, “Ron Paul is always first or second in CPAC pull, he must a be viable candidate for President!”

Some have argued that this was what I was up do when I argued that the federally mandated minimum wage increase does indeed have an impact on unemployment, though I would, of course, disagree.

Numbers mean completely different things, depending upon how you look at them. What is called by most in the media “the single biggest cut ever made to the federal budget in one year” could not be farther from the  truth. In reality, the United States Federal Government will spend more in 2011 than 2010. That is not a cut. The supposed cut is a reduction from the budget originally proposed by President Obama. I can tell my wife I’m increasing our budget from $12,000 to $1,000,000 for housing this year. If we compromise on $900,000 which is $888,000 more that we spent in 2010, that isn’t a cut. It is merely irresponsible.

That’s how numbers can work. Which is why pay data can be distorted. Men and women traditionally work in different occupations. If I work in mining, the second most dangerous field in America measured by fatalities, and my wife works in education, one of the safest and lowest-risk professions in America, I would expect to be paid more. More risk rightly should determine more pay.

deathsChart by Mark J. Perry.

Here are a few more ways to look at it, per Carrie Lukas, Executive Director of the Independent Women’s Forum.

The Department of Labor’s Time Use survey shows that full-time working women spend an average of 8.01 hours per day on the job, compared to 8.75 hours for full-time working men. One would expect that someone who works 9% more would also earn more. This one fact alone accounts for more than a third of the wage gap. . . .

Women gravitate toward jobs with fewer risks, more comfortable conditions, regular hours, more personal fulfillment and greater flexibility. Simply put, many women—not all, but enough to have a big impact on the statistics—are willing to trade higher pay for other desirable job characteristics.

Men, by contrast, often take on jobs that involve physical labor, outdoor work, overnight shifts and dangerous conditions (which is also why men suffer the overwhelming majority of injuries and deaths at the workplace). They put up with these unpleasant factors so that they can earn more.

Recent studies have shown that the wage gap shrinks—or even reverses—when relevant factors are taken into account and comparisons are made between men and women in similar circumstances. In a 2010 study of single, childless urban workers between the ages of 22 and 30, the research firm Reach Advisors found that women earned an average of 8% more than their male counterparts.

Ah. It is interesting what happens when you compare like samples. Single, childless, urban workers may be about the only way to truly compare wages between men and women. Though I”m certain there are several ways you could argue this is not a good sample.