Elie's Expositions

A bereaved father blogging for catharsis... and for distraction. Accordingly, you'll see a diverse set of topics and posts here, from the affecting to the analytical to the absurd. Something for everyone, but all, at the core, meeting a personal need.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Static Statistics

The more things change...
"Women in the workforce earn, on average, 60 cents for every dollar earned by men" - Current statistic, numerous sources.
The more they remain the same.
"This is the law when a person expresses a vow to donate to God the endowment valuation of a person. The endowment valuation of a 20 to 60 year old male shall be 50 shekels... For a woman, this endowment valuation shall be 30 shekels." - Parshas Bechukosai (Lev 27:2-4)


At 5/14/07, 3:01 PM, Blogger 20 Years of My Life said...

Nice Blog

At 5/15/07, 8:18 AM, Blogger Miriam L said...

I thought you were opening a can of wiggly worms, but I see no one is taking the bait...

At 5/15/07, 1:12 PM, Blogger Elie said...

20: Thanks, and good luck on your new blog.

Miriam: Actually I was not trolling for controversy though I can see how the topic might invite it. The similarity of the two quotes just leaped out at me this Shabbos, and also confirms an explanation I heard of the Torah's erechin laws. Namely, that the different erech/price for men and women has nothing to do with their value as human beings - which of course is incalculable - but rather their "market" value. In the Biblical period this related to the price one could fetch for a fixed period of indentured servitude, and I suppose male servants could provide more physical labor and were priced accordingly. Now the same concept is expressed in terms of annual salary. But it's absolutely astonishing that the 3:5 proportion has not changed much over 4000 years.

At 5/16/07, 2:06 PM, Blogger Miriam L said...

It is interesting. I think part of the data behind the statistic is that women often take time off or work part-time in order to take care of children. Perhaps that was a consideration in the time of the Torah as well.

(I've heard different things about that statistic, one being that it is not an hour-for-hour comparison but an overall working wage comparison.)

At 5/16/07, 2:39 PM, Blogger Elie said...

Miriam: In terms of the modern-day statistic I always understood it to mean that women as a whole have lower-paying jobs than men as a whole do. E.g., there are more men in upper management, more male doctors and female nurses than the other way around, etc. Not that women get 60% of men's pay for the exact same jobs (though perhaps that was also more true in earlier generations).

In terms of the Torah's erechin rule, the criterion might also be affordability, which of course is just the flip side of earnability. That is, a woman who made such a vow is charged only 60% of what a man is charged, since she's expected to be able to afford that much less. Note that at the end of the whole list of fixed erechin, the Torah provides a sliding scale for those who can't afford the specified fees. So that corroborates the view that the amounts are economically, rather than spiritually driven.


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