Harvard Study: Gender Pay Gap Explained Entirely by the Genders' Work Choices

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  • #33953

    Unseen
    Participant

    The following is from this article.

    Evidence from a Harvard study indicates that pay differentials between men and women doing the same job under the same rules are simply due to men and women making different choices driven by different values, not due to any sort of prejudice against women.

    They (the researchers) find that male train and bus drivers worked about 83 percent more overtime than their female colleagues and were twice as likely to accept an overtime shift—which pays time-and-a-half—on short notice and that around twice as many women as men never took overtime. The male workers took 48 percent fewer unpaid hours off under the Family Medical Leave Act each year. Female workers were more likely to take less desirable routes if it meant working fewer nights, weekends, and holidays. Parenthood turns out to be an important factor. Fathers were more likely than childless men to want the extra cash from overtime, and mothers were more likely to want time off than childless women.

    In other words, the difference in male and female earnings at the MBTA was explained by those “so-called ‘women’s choices,’” which Hartmann and Rose so easily dismissed.

    “The gap of $0.89 in our setting,” the authors concluded, “can be explained entirely by the fact that, while having the same choice sets in the workplace, women and men make different choices.”

    The “gender wage gap” is as real as unicorns and has been killed more times than Michael Myers. Yet politicians feel the need to genuflect before this phantom figure. President Obama’s White House was obsessed with that ridiculous 80-cent number. Let us substitute the quest for phantoms with serious research into the causes of relative incomes. (read the source for the above here)

    It seems to me that there is a way—a very extreme way—of doing away with this rather small differential, and that is to do away with masculinity and femininity and the roles associated with those states of being, which is something very few people really want.

    BTW, here is where you can find the actual study referred to above and what follows is the abstract to the study:

    Even in a unionized environment where work tasks are similar, hourly wages are identical, and tenure dictates promotions, female workers earn $0.89 on the male-worker dollar (weekly earnings). We use confidential administrative data on bus and train operators from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) to show that the weekly earnings gap can be explained by the workplace choices that women and men make. Women value time away from work and flexibility more than men, taking more unpaid time off using the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and working fewer overtime hours than men. When overtime hours are scheduled three months in advance, men and women work a similar number of hours; but when those hours are offered at the last minute, men work nearly twice as many. When selecting work schedules, women try to avoid weekend, holiday, and split shifts more than men. To avoid unfavorable work times, women prioritize their schedules over route safety and select routes with a higher probability of accidents. Women are less likely than men to game the scheduling system by trading off work hours at regular wages for overtime hours at premium wages. These results suggest that some policies that increase workplace flexibility, like shift swapping and expanded cover lists, can reduce the gender earnings gap and disproportionately increase the well-being of female workers.

    • This topic was modified 1 month ago by  Unseen.
    #33955

    Kristina
    Participant

    From the article, it would seem a significant part of the answer to reducing the discrepancy in earnings is that women should simply stop having (or at least stop caring for) children.

    Seems simple enough.

    #33956

    Davis
    Moderator

    That is a study in one of the few work places where men and women are GUARANTEED the same wage. So in this case, yes, they make the same salary. So, in fact, there is no gender disparity in wages here so the only actual conclusion you can make from this article is that in the train and bus driving sector men are 50% more likely to ask for over-time hours (information completely irrelevant to one’s hourly wage). I’m not sure if you are trying to do some kind of victorious “so there you go this explains everything” moment but it doesn’t. It just tells us the likelihood of people accepting over time hours in one sector (where they all make the same salary). This doesn’t explain why, for example, people women work the same hours, do the same jobs and give the same output in say, a call centre, make a lower salary (a salary difference that is so enormous it cannot be explained by one or two pregnancies).

    I would argue that the fact that women are less likely to take overtime hours is because she faces more pressure to dedicate more of her time to taking care of the family that her husband could equally do and/or their husband is unfairly paid more than she is and will benefit more by doing actual overtime. Acting as though a woman goes: yeah I’d love to put my career on hold because I absolutely love pitching in way more than my fair share of taking care of the kids and doing house work comes down to a reasonable choice as opposed to say social pressures on women to sacrifice career and contribute more than their fair share to domestic and child rearing duties. You’re also quoting a “working paper” by two students so be careful when you say it is a “Harvard Study” because that implies it is a peer reviewed paper published in a journal by Harvard professors which it is not.

    • This reply was modified 1 month ago by  Davis.
    #33958

    Unseen
    Participant

    From the article, it would seem a significant part of the answer to reducing the discrepancy in earnings is that women should simply stop having (or at least stop caring for) children. Seems simple enough.

    Young females, long before their childbearing years seem more attracted and fascinated than boys of the same age by babies and if not babies then cute animals, especially baby animals. Things with soft bodies and edges. Meanwhile, boys are playing with toy trucks, trains, airplanes, and other things with hard bodies and hard edges.

    We can go on and on about causation but the old sayings about “What are little boys/girls made of” is still with us with no particular end in sight. Girl and boy babies show marked gender-associated differences almost from birth.

    Whether the explanation is nature or social inertia doesn’t matter to the study, which shows both that the pay differential is smaller and satisfactory as a trade off to the women in the study. In other words, despite the somewhat lower pay, they take it as a trade off for something else they also value.

    My best female friend made the choice to have her tubes tied for two reasons: 1) so she would never have to make the decisions being pregnant would foist upon her and 2) in order to have a stress-free sex life. I bit my lip when she confessed that because it seems to me that women with children enjoy a richness to their old age that childless women don’t. However, her reasoning was that she has several nieces and nephews and they would do.

    We all make choices which impact our earnings. My own choice to go into philosophy rather than law or business academically and then to pursue a career in the arts affected my earning power, as I knew it would. However, as the song goes “I’ve to to be me.”

    • This reply was modified 1 month ago by  Unseen.
    • This reply was modified 1 month ago by  Unseen.
    #33961

    Unseen
    Participant

    I would argue that the fact that women are less likely to take overtime hours is because she faces more pressure to dedicate more of her time to taking care of the family that her husband could equally do and/or their husband is unfairly paid more than she is and will benefit more by doing actual overtime.

    Two things: Yes, things would be fairer according to those who think things are unfair if our society were to be completely different. Don’t hold your breath. Second, we are back to fact that companies pay employees by their value to the company, not their gender. And of course that feeds back to 1) in an endless feedback loop.

    I just don’t sense a lot of interest in totally upending society right now. Maybe a century or two down the road. Maybe never.

    #33962

    Ivy
    Participant

    @unseen,

    Second, we are back to fact that companies pay employees by their value to the company, not their gender.

    EXACTLY!!

    #33963

    Kristina
    Participant

    We all make choices which impact our earnings.

    Sure, but also our earnings are all impacted by things beyond our control. What of it? With regard to the decision to have children, work appears to be one of the variables both delaying when people have children and how many children they have. For national/ regional economies interested in maintaining population stability or even looking for growth, that’s less than ideal once you dip below replacement population rates.

    Second, we are back to fact that companies pay employees by their value to the company, not their gender.

    No. Even in the specific case of the MBTA as cited, that doesn’t appear to be the case, or at least we don’t have the information to determine that very easily. Employees are being payed in excess of their ordinary wage for hours which qualify for overtime rates. It’s not clear what exact relationship that has to value. It compensates for a gap in scheduling practices, but does’t necessarily mean added value. It is possible that those who work increased overtime hours are actually generating proportionately less value as a function of cost to service hours.

     

    • This reply was modified 1 month ago by  Kristina.
    • This reply was modified 1 month ago by  Kristina.
    #33966

    Unseen
    Participant

    We all make choices which impact our earnings.

    Sure, but also our earnings are all impacted by things beyond our control. What of it? With regard to the decision to have children, work appears to be one of the variables both delaying when people have children and how many children they have. For national/ regional economies interested in maintaining population stability or even looking for growth, that’s less than ideal once you dip below replacement population rates.

    You’re suggesting social engineering is a good thing(?).

    Second, we are back to fact that companies pay employees by their value to the company, not their gender.

    No. Even in the specific case of the MBTA as cited, that doesn’t appear to be the case, or at least we don’t have the information to determine that very easily. Employees are being payed in excess of their ordinary wage for hours which qualify for overtime rates. It’s not clear what exact relationship that has to value. It compensates for a gap in scheduling practices, but does’t necessarily mean added value. It is possible that those who work increased overtime hours are actually generating proportionately less value as a function of cost to service hours.

    Employees who are willing to sacrifice for the company to make things run more smoothly (or at all) are far more valuable to the operation than employees who place a higher priority elsewhere. Seems obvious.

    #33967

    Davis
    Moderator

    No. The only thing your study shows is that women in the bus driving and train driving sector are less likely to take overtime. It says NOTHING about equal pay. They are working in a rare environment where pay is mandated by the government and/or union. In other words equal pay is FORCED on them, not determined by the market and social bias. You are extrapolating from a single study about the likelihood of accepting over time in one industry and generalising about it as though it explains why women would make a lower hourly rate for the same amount of work. You are not indicating why hourly compensation is lower in the non-regulated market (just about everywhere else) nor if women would reject over time in other markets (we don’t know its just one student paper). Those are two entirely different questions and the latter is NOT addressed at all by your working paper by two students, nor can you generalise about all work places by one single case study in one industry.

    #33968

    Kristina
    Participant

    You’re suggesting social engineering is a good thing(?).

    It’s not inherently good or bad, but it’s also not really relevant. I’m not talking about manipulating people into wanting to have more or less children. I am saying there is some measure of public interest in reducing the number people–disproportionately women–who are economically disadvantaged for having and/ or caring for children.

    Employees who are willing to sacrifice for the company to make things run more smoothly (or at all) are far more valuable to the operation than employees who place a higher priority elsewhere. Seems obvious.

    That’s a nice sentiment, but it doesn’t really make sense. ‘Sacrifice’ is quite relative, and it’s unlikely to be measured by the company in this case. There is a literal value associated to the work hours in terms of revenue, expenditure and amount of service offered. Conceivably, someone willing to take on part time hours on a flexible on-call arrangement to fill scheduling gaps would be far more valuable and potentially making far greater sacrifice (depending on their circumstances). They’re total compensation would be less, but they’d effectively be more valuable because they are providing pretty much the same service at lower cost than full-time employees depending on things like benefits requirements (etc.). It’s possible they could increase their value more by accepting a quicker turnover rate depending on how the cost of training new employees stacks against the cost of scheduled pay increases.

    #33969

    Davis
    Moderator

    Whether it is social pressure or not is entirely relevant. Men in the 21st century put in tons more hours in housework and play a monumentally larger role in raising children than even 50 years ago which show attitudes can change if society is willing, for example to not overburden women with a disproportionately unfair burden of child rearing and domestic duties. Countries like Scandanavia which offer near equal paternity leave as maternity leave get things right…it’s a step in the right direction. Giving men and women equal time off for raising children helps take away the excuse to pay women a lower hourly rate (or pay for the same amount of high quality work). And equalising the burden for domestic house work would give women a realistic chance to choose if they actually want to do overtime (as opposed to if they even could do it if they want). So there you go, both a political and a social solution to lowering the excuses given to paying women less (which is bad enough considering the wage difference is way way more than any money lost on maternity leave) and overburdening women. Conditioning young girls to think their guiding goal in life is overburdened mother hood is another topic for another day.

    #33970

    Ivy
    Participant

    @kristina,

    That’s a nice sentiment, but it doesn’t really make sense.

     

    It will make more sense when/if you become a mother.

    Until then it probably won’t make sense to you. Unless you have walked in the shoes of a working mother, especially if you are a single mother,  you have no clue. I have faced these challenges first hand and I can tell you from experience that no company that hires you to perform work really gives a shit about your personal life. You are expected to check it all at the door, and leave every sob story, excuse, “family emergency,” and drama outside of the work place. Your kid gets sick? Tough shit. You get sick because your kid got sick? Too fucking bad. You have to come in late because your child gives you drama about going to school in the morning? Nobody really cares. All they care about is, are you on time? Are you on point? Are you performing your job to the best of your ability? Are you performing and competing along with your male counterparts who have wives that take care of their children so that they can work 60+ hours per week without interruption? If the answer is no to any of those questions, then sorry sweetie you’re not getting that promotion! It really is that simple. That’s how businesses work and that’s how businesses think. They are in business to make money. They don’t care about your feelings. It’s a cold hard world. And regardless of the fact that this is just one study, it’s a glimpse, it’s a sliver of a bigger picture of what women go through just to compete in the workforce.

    #33971

    Ivy
    Participant

    @davis

    And equalising the burden for domestic house work would give women a realistic chance to choose if they actually want to do overtime (as opposed to if they even could do it if they want).

    Time for “housework,” has absolutely nothing to do with it. Absolutely nothing Davis. Who do you think takes time off work to take care of the child when they are sick or can’t go to school? Who takes them to the doctor? I guarantee you the answer to that question is mostly women! It’s the mothers that are there. Yes it’s nice if the father washes dishes after dinner but that does not make up for the number of hours the mom has to takeoff to take care of her children when they are sick. You too have absolutely no idea. Unless you are a mother in the work force you cannot fathom. Do you realize how often children get sick? Especially in the first three years of life? And do you realize that while it is definitely nice to have a partner to help you, not all mothers have partners that help them. Some women have partners who are MIA. There’s a high percentage of mothers who are now single mothers. Where is the father? Nowhere to be found. Or if he is in the picture is he really going to pick up the kids when they are sick and take them to the doctor? No! He’s not. They are divorced for a reason and he is an asshole. That is the reality for a lot of women. So unless you have the money to hire a 24/7 nanny, the burden falls on MOM. Mom is the one who does it. And mom better hope that her employer cares enough to give a shit to let her keep her job. Because there are many employers (if not most) who don’t.

    #33973

    Ivy
    Participant

    I think the study makes perfect sense, and it is about time that we begin to have this conversation for real. When thinking about a job that is promoted based on seniority, and thinking about the problem of whether or not the women take overtime, it just highlights the fact that if you were a mother you cannot work overtime. And you don’t necessarily WANT to either. 8 hours a day away from your kids is too much. But to ask for more? Hell no. Most women don’t/can’t, either way it doesn’t matter. Does it mean they make less money than their male counterparts? Yes. But I’m willing to bet every single woman there that is also a mother is GRATEFUL to have a good job with union benefits that affords them the ability to provide for their family. And sure, they have to take time off when their kids are sick like any responsible mother would. There’s your 20% gap. But are those women destitute? NO! They can pay their bills. That puts them ahead of the game compared to a LOT of people. Do you think they care that the men around them work crazy overtime? Yeah I’m sure it bothers them, but not so much that they would be willing to sacrifice that time with their kids. Time to be there as a mother for your children is priceless. You cannot rewind time and go back and do that over again. You get one shot at it and you better do it right. They grow fast!!

    #33974

    Unseen
    Participant

    @kristina,

    That’s a nice sentiment, but it doesn’t really make sense.

    It will make more sense when/if you become a mother. Until then it probably won’t make sense to you. Unless you have walked in the shoes of a working mother, especially if you are a single mother, you have no clue. I have faced these challenges first hand and I can tell you from experience that no company that hires you to perform work really gives a shit about your personal life. You are expected to check it all at the door, and leave every sob story, excuse, “family emergency,” and drama outside of the work place. Your kid gets sick? Tough shit. You get sick because your kid got sick? Too fucking bad. You have to come in late because your child gives you drama about going to school in the morning? Nobody really cares. All they care about is, are you on time? Are you on point? Are you performing your job to the best of your ability? Are you performing and competing along with your male counterparts who have wives that take care of their children so that they can work 60+ hours per week without interruption? If the answer is no to any of those questions, then sorry sweetie you’re not getting that promotion! It really is that simple. That’s how businesses work and that’s how businesses think. They are in business to make money. They don’t care about your feelings. It’s a cold hard world. And regardless of the fact that this is just one study, it’s a glimpse, it’s a sliver of a bigger picture of what women go through just to compete in the workforce.

    That’s a great “where the rubber hits the road” exposition of the cutthroat way companies think. HAVE to think. (And, BTW, this will as often as not include female-run companies, right?) Running a company is a hassle and only people who are there to help out are worth getting rewarded through their paychecks. A company that risks losing a woman who is key to their success by failing to reward her is just stupid management.

    As Kristina said above, if you don’t want to be a worker who gets paid less, basically, don’t have kids. Men get ahead by either not having kids or nor seeming to have kids, by being available to pick up stakes and move to Shithole, Iowa if that’s what would help the company, by not just accepting overtime but asking for it, and also by having the stones to threaten to leave when they really want a concession (knowing how to negotiate and having a five-star record to make the threat plausible is what gives an employee power).

    • This reply was modified 1 month ago by  Unseen.
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