Why Not Compare Racial Apples With Apples? (Martin Loney in The Financial Post)

February 23, 2006: Why Not Compare Racial Apples With Apples? (Martin Loney in The Financial Post)

Why not compare racial apples with apples?

Martin Loney
Financial Post

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The claim by the Canadian Labour Congress, in its just-published paper “Racial Status and Employment Outcomes,” that visible-minority workers, born in Canada, earn significantly less than their white counterparts will lead to the predictable hand-wringing.

We are told that these “racialized” workers, as the congress polemically calls them, are the victims of pervasive racial discrimination. In truth, they are victims of nothing more onerous than the Congress's parlous grasp of research methodology.

The incomes of Canadians are significantly affected by a number of factors, including education and training, area of residence and length of labour-market service. Age is critical to any understanding of earnings.

This should come as no surprise to the congress, whose members regularly insist on seniority in securing access to higher-paid positions. Public-sector unions have been assiduous in establishing generous and lengthy salary ladders, scaled only by dint of long service.

Labour-market data bear eloquent witness to the influence of age on earnings. Why, then, does the congress's research not include age as a central variable in examining earnings?

The average annual income of those aged 15-24, in employment in 2000, according to Statistics Canada data, was just over $10,000. Workers in the 25-34 group averaged close to $30,000 and those in the 45-54 group more than $41,000. These are far larger differences than those attributed to differences in education.

The congress reports that Canadian-born “men of colour” earned an average of 34% less than other Canadians — a result, we are to believe, of discrimination. Canadian-born visible minorities not only have an average hourly wage lower than their Canadian counterparts, but also significantly lower than foreign-born “men of colour.”

The relevance of age to the alleged discrimination experienced by Canadian-born visible minorities is obvious. The group is significantly younger than the population as a whole. Census data indicate that the proportion of visible minorities in the under-25 population was some 50% higher than in the 45-64 year old group.

In other words, the penalty experienced by visible-minority workers may be easily accounted for not by race but age. This is easily tested. Other researchers, whose work remains unacknowledged by the congress, have shown that the earnings of Canadian-born visible minorities, when relevant labour-market characteristics are included, are similar to those of other Canadians.

The congress does not restrict its sweeping conclusions to earnings. In the areas of unemployment and access to higher-status positions, it makes equally flamboyant claims. Among the more apparently surprising findings is that Canadian-born visible minorities have higher unemployment rates than foreign-born visible minorities.

Quite what might account for such “discrimination” is unclear. Does the congress seriously suppose that those educated in Canada and fluent in at least one of Canada's official languages face some particularly insidious prejudice?

Or are they simply reflective of a younger population facing a well-documented greater chance of unemployment? Why are visible minorities less likely to be found in the “supervisor” or “senior management” categories? Could length of service possibly have an impact on selection?

The congress is following a well-trodden path in the grievance industry — ignore any evidence that doesn't fit, avoid comparing like with like, publish only the most outrageous claims. One of the more colourful lines of the early feminists was the assertion that women with a university degree earned less than men with a Grade 8 education.

Whatever the dubious provenance of this data, what was really being compared was a burgeoning population of female university graduates with a group of older men who started their careers in the 1940s and had by the 1970s become reasonably successful.

Any comparison of the earnings of recent graduates, an apples-to-apples approach diligently eschewed by feminists, would have shown no such disparity. Statistics Canada data show that on graduating from university women do at least as well as men.

The CLC report, aided by a media that is largely innumerate and endlessly in search of injustice, will be seen as yet more evidence of a profoundly unjust society. The real injustice is to the wallets of those congress members whose union dues have funded this sociologically illiterate nonsense.

National Post 2006