Despite its somewhat impudent tone, this paper examines a major controversy. "Comparable worth" has its proponents and detractors, but as in most debates, neither side fully appreciates the maintained hypotheses of the other. From an economic point of view, the disagreement seems to boil down to differences of opinion about whether the "excessive supply" of women to "women's jobs" is a result of their different utility functions or of their different constraints. There also has been a serious confusion of the "normative" with the "positive," some oversight of the potentially large regulatory costs that would accompany comparable worth legislation, and a tendency to consider only the partial-equilibrium consequences of these measures. Each of these considerations is examined in detail, with the conclusion that while comparable worth measures might alleviate some inequities in the short term, the long-term consequences could seriously aggravate the very problem the policy was intended to solve. Copyright 1986 Western Economic Association International.
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