Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Do women tennis players deserve equal pay?

Over the last few years, few prize-money announcements at Grand Slam tennis tournaments have gone by without a number of tennis "feminists" raising a hue and cry about women players being paid less than men. The occasion this time: Wimbledon's announcement that it would continue to preserve its asymmetric pay structure.

Of course, the difference in pay is so marginal as to be little more than symbolic, which probably (and rightfully) causes further aggravation to the feminist movement. After all, how can the Wimbledon officials possibly justify paying the ladies' champion exactly 4.5% less than the men's?

The traditional argument against equal pay for women usually involves an allusion to two things:
  1. That men play 5 sets whilst women play 3 and, therefore, that men deserve more money.
  2. That the "depth" of the men's game is much higher than the women's and, therefore, that men work harder than women to win and deserve more money in consequence.
Neither of these two arguments makes any sense at all. (The only argument worse than (1) was when Martina Navratilova offered to play 5 sets in exchange for equal pay!) The reason: players are paid for the entertainment they deliver (and the secondary market therefrom, e.g., television spots), not for their labor! These aren't workers on minimum wage, they are performers. Making a pay-for-play argument is as silly as arguing that Roger Federer should make less money than Lleyton Hewitt because Federer keeps winning in straight sets while Hewitt always struggles through five-setters.

So, does this mean women do deserve equal pay after all? A tricky question, because it is hard to estimate the fraction of the tournament's market value that derives solely from the men and solely from the women. Instead, I used a different metric: Compare the prize money of all tournaments on the WTA tour excluding the Grand Slams, to the tournaments on the ATP tour. The advantage of making this comparison is that it's easy to get "pure" data on the value of women's (respectively, men's) tennis alone, since a WTA (resp., ATP) tour tournament needs to market itself, sell tickets and find sponsors without the aid of men's (resp., women's) tennis.

A quick analysis of the 2006 WTA and ATP tour, culled from their web sites, provides the following statistics:

WTA tour: 61 Tournaments; Avg. Prize Money = $650,000; Total Prize Money= $39.6 million

ATP tour: 64 Tournaments; Avg. Prize Money = $929,000; Total Prize Money= $59.5 million

The winner, in a TKO by a factor of almost 1.5: The ATP tour.

Conclusion: Until the WTA tour can get its act together and match the ATP tour's prize money, the argument for equal pay at Grand Slams is dubious.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Tax Paradox

As I started doing my taxes late yesterday, I stumbled upon an interesting paradox involving human emotional reaction. If one is given a choice between living in the following two alternative worlds:
(a) one in which they do their taxes on April 14 every year and find that they are owed a nice big tax refund; and
(b) one in which they receive a slightly larger paycheck every fortnight, but find on April 14 that they owe the government a little money.

Why do people prefer (a) to (b), given that world (b) offers them more money (thanks to the loss of interest income on owed tax refunds)? I suspect it's because people prefer the high of one big, pleasant surprise to the even-keeled happiness of a fatter paycheck.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Population of Europe

Back with a quick link after a long hiatus. Rather interesting discussion over at The Reality-Based Community on the state of European population growth, or the lack of it.