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We Analyze Some Recent Reports on the Wage Gap

Still A Man's Labor Market: The Slowly Narrowing Gender Wage Gap

You can find an overview here.

Pay Gaps in Congress: A Study

You can find a twitter thread by the co-author breaking down the research here.

Why Do Women Earn Less Than Men? Evidence from Train and Bus Operators*

You can find the abstract here.

The first report covers the wage gap as a whole and looks at it through the same economic lens--using available data and regression analysis--as the WY Workforce Services R&P Wage Disparities Report we often refer to. It's findings are not rosy. In fact, they assert that it is worse than reported, that women are penalized significantly for (necessary) departures from the workforce, that we have a long way to go to achieve economic parity.

The second and third papers do exactly what (mostly male) legislators and business owners are concerned is not being done: they compare exactly the same employees working in exactly the same conditions with exactly the same experience and then analyze:

1. Whether a wage gap exists, and

2. If it exists, why? What are the underlying factors that create the gap?

Let's be clear: Every analysis finds a wage gap.

Depending on the type of work, some gender wage gaps are bigger than others. In professions dominated by men, the gap tends to be larger. In professions with large numbers of women, the gap tends to be smaller. In non-union environments, the gap tends to be larger. In organizations that offer wage transparency--that is, they publish their pay scales, don't ask for salary history, don't penalize employees for talking about their rate of pay--the wage gap is smaller.

(Companies with smaller wage gaps tend to have higher rates of retention, better employee satisfaction, and better overall earnings. We can't prove causation, but we can prove correlation. But that's for another post.)

So what we're really debating (if we're debating) is why. Why is there a wage gap?

The authors of Pay Gaps in Congress and Evidence from Train and Bus Operators have selected these areas to research because they have fixed conditions: Every Congressional office has the exact same amount of funds for salaries. The MBTA is a unionized organization that has to provide all members parity based on seniority not gender. The organizations themselves have controlled for the variables (to the extent possible in the real world). The authors of both studies find significant gender wage gaps. The authors of both studies set about trying to determine why those gaps exist.

Here's the short version: Research shows that women make different choices than men about how to prioritize their limited resources in a workplace that has been entirely shaped by men and the needs and resources of men.

This should come as little surprise to anyone. In a world in which childcare, family care, and elder care fall disproportionately to women--and are done without compensation--and in which medical insurance, disability insurance, and retirement are tied to employment, circumstances and structural inequities constrain women's choices.

Our job, then, is to take this information, take this reality, and work to alter the system. We'll be producing talking points and policy recommendations to carry this forward. Stay tuned.

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