Trump’s claim about Clinton Foundation somewhat misleading

Donald Trump is calling Hillary Clinton a hypocrite when it come to gender pay equality, charging that her husband’s Clinton Foundation doesn’t walk the walk when it comes to paying women and men equally.

Trump recently shared a post on his Instagram account that sought to highlight pay disparities at the Clinton Foundation. The foundation was founded by her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton has worked for the foundation in periods when she wasn’t serving in government or running for president.

“Hypocrisy at the Clinton Foundation: Top male staff made on average $218,029 while top female staff made $153,014 from 2010-2014,” Trump posted on May 24, 2016, to his 1.6 million followers.

We wondered if this attack wa accurate.

Democrats and Republicans often spin the facts about the gender pay gap, and small changes in how you phrase a claim can make a big difference.

For years, we have fact-checked claims by Democratic politicians decrying the gender wage gap, which has been in the neighborhood of 77 cents on the dollar, with slight ups and downs over the years.

When politicians simply state the existence of this wage gap, we generally rate those claims Mostly True. What keeps it from a full True is that this gap does not stem entirely from discrimination. The statistic in question doesn’t say that women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man does in the same job. Indeed, that’s a claim we have consistently rated as Mostly False.

Rather, the 77 cent figure refers to the overall difference between what men make and what women make. That difference can be shaped not just by discrimination but also by voluntary choices, such as the specific careers men and women pursue and whether they decide to take time off to raise children.

Trump’s claim includes spin we’ve seen before. He’s looking at only a small number of foundation employees while ignoring the central point of the equal pay argument — which is whether the employees are doing the same work and being compensated differently because of their gender.

Though the Trump campaign did not respond to an inquiry, we’re fairly certain his data comes from the Clinton Foundation’s IRS form 990 — the tax form that nonprofit groups are required to file annually. The forms — which are available for public inspection on the foundation’s website — require the organization to list the compensation for its highest-paid officials. For the Clinton Foundation, that has typically been in the range of eight to 12 officials per year.

Trump’s calculation has female top officials at the foundation earning, on average, 70 cents for every dollar that the average male top official at the foundation earned.

If you look at the total compensation reported, which includes fringe benefits, our calculations showed that women earned 67 cents for every dollar earned by a man.

If you look instead at the salary column only, the figure was 66 cents on the dollar.

If you remove the compensation for the officials identified as CEOs during that period, the ratio improves, but still climbs only to 77 cents.

And if you use the median amount rather than the average — which statisticians usually prefer because it gives less emphasis to extreme data points — the figure still improves to only 76 cents on the dollar.

The number of salaries included in Trump’s comparison accounts for just a fraction of all employees in the organization — and even of senior management at the foundation. Experts say this is too small a sample to say much about the foundation’s overall compensation practices.

“I’m not sure I would draw too much from such a small number of employees,” said Linda Babcock, an economist at Carnegie Mellon University’s H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management.

In addition, the types of jobs disclosed in the tax form run the gamut from CEO to information technology director to senior fellow to human resources director. Few organizations would pay the CEO the same as an IT director, so finding differences doesn’t necessarily mean much without a much deeper analysis of the employer’s hiring practices.

“The Clinton Foundation could argue it has paid equitable wages to both men and women, notwithstanding the fact that its high-paid men earned higher salaries than its high-paid women,” said Gary Burtless, an economist with the Brookings Institution.

Top-level positions are usually filled by people who have specific credentials and career experiences. Because these factors are in high demand in the broader employment marketplace and often hard to find in a single candidate, the compensation level tends to be tailored to the specific candidate, whether a man or a woman.

In a statement, the foundation told PolitiFact that at the end of 2014, the senior leadership listed publicly on their website included nine women and nine men, and those women earned 91 cents for every dollar a man earned. The foundation also said that at the end of 2014, 64 percent of its U.S.-based employees were women.

Our ruling.

Trump’s post said, “Hypocrisy at the Clinton Foundation: Top male staff made on average $218,029 while top female staff made $153,014 from 2010-2014.”

If you allow some leeway on what accounts for top staff, Trump is close on the numbers.

But the statistical pool is too limited and the methodology is too crude to demonstrate evidence of hypocrisy. Trump is guilty of ignoring the nuances of gender-based wage disparities, just as Democrats often over-simplify the meaning of the 77-cent figure.

The statement is partially accurate but takes things out of context.

We rate Tryump’s statement Half True.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

For the full fact-check with all sourcing, please see