Must-Read: Claudia Goldin: How to Win the Battle of the Sexes Over Pay (Hint: It Isn’t Simple)

Must-Read: Claudia Goldin: How to Win the Battle of the Sexes Over Pay (Hint: It Isn’t Simple): “Billie Jean King… the United States Open… 1972… $10,000. Ilie Năstase, her male counterpart, won $25,000…

…Ms. King fought hard for equal rights and, on the tennis court, she won. By 1973, men and women received the same prizes at the Open…. That is not the reality in the overall labor market, however…. Fighting to eradicate discriminatory employment practices is absolutely needed, of course…. Unequal treatment in hiring and in the work setting is real…. Yet… the time demands of many jobs can explain much of the pay difference, a finding that has sobering implications. Eliminating the gender earnings gap will require changes in millions of households and thousands of individual workplaces….

The gap is a statistic that changes during the life of a worker. Typically, it’s small when formal education ends and employment begins, and it increases with age. More to the point, it increases when women marry and when they begin bearing children. Using the data that shows women earn 81 cents for each dollar earned by men, when the careers of recent college graduates start, the gap is much smaller: 92 cents for each male dollar. By the time college-educated women are 40 years old, they earn 73 cents…. Correcting for time off and hours of work reduces the difference in the earnings between men and women but doesn’t eliminate it….

Women disproportionately seek jobs—including full-time jobs—that are more likely to mesh with family responsibilities, which, for the most part, are still greater for women than for men. So, the research shows, women tend to prefer jobs that offer flexibility: the ability to shift hours of work and rearrange shifts to accommodate emergencies at home. Such jobs tend to be more predictable, with fewer on-call hours and less exposure to weekend and evening obligations. These advantages have a negative consequence: lower earnings per hour, even when the number of hours worked is the same….

Certain job characteristics have a big impact on the gender earnings gap… Subject to strict deadlines and time pressure… Expected to be in direct contact with other workers or clients… Instructed to develop cooperative working relationships… Assigned to work on highly specific projects… Unable to independently determine their tasks and goals Occupations with a lower level of these characteristics (like jobs in science and technology) show smaller gaps…. Men’s earnings tend to surge when there are fewer substitutes for a given worker, when the job must be done in teams and when clients demand specific lawyers, accountants, consultants and financial advisers. Such differences can account for about half the gender earnings gap. These findings provide more nuance in explaining why the gap widens with age and why it is greater for women with children…


Brad DeLong


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