The unwillingness of women to negotiate their salaries is often blamed for the persistent male-female wage gap. A new paper (abstract; pdf) from Freakonomics favorite John List (and coauthor Andreas Leibbrandt) uses a field experiment to explore the issue:
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By using a natural field experiment that randomizes nearly 2,500 job-seekers into jobs that vary important details of the labor contract, we are able to observe both the nature of sorting and the extent of salary negotiations. We observe interesting data patterns. For example, we find that when there is no explicit statement that wages are negotiable, men are more likely to negotiate than women. However, when we explicitly mention the possibility that wages are negotiable, this difference disappears, and even tends to reverse. In terms of sorting, we find that men in contrast to women prefer job environments where the “rules of wage determination” are ambiguous. This leads to the gender gap being much more pronounced in jobs that leave negotiation of wage ambiguous.
We recently solicited your questions for Hanna Rosin, author of the new book The End of Men (and the Rise of Women). Here now are her replies, which include an explanation of the book’s title and possible solutions to the wage gap. Thanks to everyone for playing along, and especially to Rosin for fielding so many of your good questions.
Q. What do you think about the feminization of higher education; that is, more female faculty and administrators resulting in more policy creation by women or influenced by them? –Gary
A. This has been the conservative explanation for why boys are having trouble in schools. It was advanced, for example, by Christina Hoff Sommers in her 2000 Atlantic story “The War Against Boys.” I think it’s a valid but somewhat limited explanation. For one thing, it’s not new. Psychologist G. Stanley Hall began promoting this theory in 1908 in his influential essay “Feminization in School and Home.” The problem with it is it implies a kind of coordinated conspiracy by women to influence young minds. The truth is that women have taken over teaching because, as has happened often in our economy, once women start to enter a profession the men tend to flee. That’s really the men’s problem, as I see it, not the women’s. It would be fabulous and solve a lot of problems if more men would become teachers. It also has to do with the fact that teaching is one of the rare profession in the U.S. that allows for enough flexibility for a parent to be able to spend a reasonable amount of time with his or her family, both on a weekly basis and on summer vacations. That’s the fault of the American workforce, which is so resistant to flexible working and a reasonable amount of vacation time. Read More »
Jennifer Colosi runs a San Francisco executive search firm with a concentration in finance. Here’s what she wrote in to say about our analysis of the persistent female-male wage gap:
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Agreed with all you wrote about wage gaps between women and men.
Why yes, women do love kids!
You are exactly right – a higher wage isn’t as important to some woman – because it comes at a “household” cost.
The male-female wage gap narrowed considerably during the 1980s and 1990s, thanks to increased educational attainment among women and an influx of women into high-earning fields. Factors such as the Women’s Movement and the 1964 Civil Rights Act are often cited as the drivers of this shift, but economists are also narrowing in on another influence: the Pill. Economists have linked the Pill to “delays in marriage (among college goers) and motherhood, changes in selection into motherhood, increased educational attainment, labor-force participation, and occupational upgrading among college graduates.” Now, a new working paper (ungated version) by Martha J. Bailey, Brad Hershbein, and Amalia R. Miller examines the effect of the Pill on the male-female wage gap. Read More »
There’s a lot of talk about race these days. But high-frequency chatter can obscure some of the more important longer-term trends shaping the lives of African-Americans. Which is why Betsey Stevenson and I turn to the data, in a new paper, “Subjective and Objective Indicators of Racial Happiness.” Read More »
The first chapter of SuperFreakonomics, and a recent Q&A, addressed the pervasive male-female wage gap, but there does seem to be one subset of women who make more money than their male peers. Read More »
In the SuperFreakonomics Virtual Book Club, we invite readers to ask questions of some of the researchers and other characters in our new book. Last week we opened up the questioning for Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, labor economists and experts on the male-female wage gap. Read More »
A reader offers an alternate explanation for the male-female pay gap among MBA’s. Read More »