It is just not true that, for the same work, women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Factors such as college major, occupation and length of time in the workplace explain most of the pay gap. AEI’s Sally Satel explains the discovery of another factor contributing to that gap.
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Hi, I’m Sally Satel, visiting Factual Feminist and resident scholar at AEI. Economists have shown over and over again that when you control for relevant differences between men and women employees the wage gap narrows to a very small amount. New research shows that another variable shrinks that discrepancy even more. The additional variable is “overwork.” An overworker is someone who regularly works more than 50 hours per week at his or her job. This has nothing to do with putting in over time or working more than one job. Overwork is typical of people in medical and legal careers and in finance and in managerial positions. Two researchers, Youngjoo Chu at the University of Indiana and Kim Weeden at Cornell have paid careful attention to it. The two were puzzled that the gap between male and female earnings has persisted even as more women were entering the workplace, graduating from college, and delaying child bearing. This is where overwork comes in. For one thing, the pay is better for a 50 plus hour work week. The corporate world places a huge premium on long hours—and so doubling one’s workweek far more than doubles his or her salary. No surprise that bosses might perceive overworkers as more committed and loyal than full-time workers and disproportionately reward them with better work assignments or promotions. All this adds to their paychecks. Second, and key, overwork is more common among men by a ratio of 2 to 1. The ratio has been stable for at least two decades. Women are less likely than men to enter jobs that require extremely long hours and less likely to stay in such jobs. (I’ll note here that the authors found no evidence that men who overwork were paid more than women who do.) Wage gap activists are aware that women work fewer hours over all and that this explains part of the gap. Their solution? Change the workplace. Why not make the workplace work better for everyone—they say– by discouraging over-time and workaholism. Here is the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford. It says “We need to redesign workplaces so that they are better aligned with the lives of the people who work in them.” Ok, accommodations within reason make good sense. Until they say: “Performance should no longer be measured by how many hours employees put in.” The logic seems to be: if men and women but especially men were less hard driving, then men and women’s pay would equalize—and we would all be happier and have a better work/life balance. This has a surface plausibility—but think about it: Anytime you restrict the freedom of one group to equalize outcomes, the cure ends up being worse than the perceived disease. Just remember title IX which led to the cutting of male sports teams while female teams went underpopulated! Practical question: How would truncated work weeks actually operate in the neutered workplace? In journalism, reporters cover stories and beats for more than a few hours or days at a time. Law firm and financial clients want to see the same faces handling their cases or transactions and, in medicine, want the same doctor who knows their medical history. You just can’t hand off your clients and patients as if they were widgets. And when you do, mistakes happen. Are men who overwork and women who don’t just following a socially sanctioned script? This may play some role, but here’s a question: is overwork really a problem? I grant you that being forced to work at a job you don’t like is hell–the fewer hours the better. But for a creative or entrepreneurial person, or someone on a mission -work is exhilarating.
Gender activists dismayed by this new reason for the wage gap
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