What is the cause for the gender wage gap? How can it be solved?

Gender & Finance Literature Review Series #3: Goldin (2014)

In this G&F LRS #3, we analyze the following research paper:

Goldin C. 2014. A grand gender convergence: Its last chapter. American Economic Review 104(4): 1091-1119.

This paper shows that while roles of men and women are converging over time, there is a need to write a ‘last chapter’ in this convergence story. There is a decreasing but existing gender wage gap in the labor market. Goldin (2014) investigates the reasons and variations across major occupations.

Gender wage gap across occupations

The general explanation to the wage gap is that women have a lower bargaining power, will to compete and have higher chances of leaving work for family reasons. However, the author finds that the real problem is that the amount of time worked in a day or week and the amount of time out of the labor force have a direct impact on the earnings. An interesting finding by Goldin (2014) is that though gender wage gap has reduced across all age groups from their previous statuses, the total gender wage gap remains unchanged. The author tries to understand the reason for this.

Goldin (2014) conducts regression analysis on being a woman and being paid in the various sectors- Health, Business, Technology, Science and Other. Across multiple occupations, the Science and Technology exhibit the best results. It appears that this industry offers perks of working part time and provides flexibility in work hours for women with families. The author then formulates an economic hypothesis that an occupation with a linear pay (i.e. where wages are directly related to hours worked) will exhibit lower gender wage gaps. Similarly, an occupation with a non-linear pay will exhibit greater gender wage gap. She proves this hypothesis by regression and finds again that Science and Technology exhibit least gender wage gap. Goldin (2014) extends this hypothesis and analyzes this linear or non-linear earnings to time relationship and reasons for the gender wage gap in Business, Law and Pharmaceuticals.

 The Last Chapter

Goldin (2014) concludes that the gender wage gap exists and varies across ages and occupations. This residual gap is because hours worked in continuity are more important in some occupations while not so in others. Flexibility has a penalty in these fields, including in Finance, leading to non-linear earnings for women. The ‘Last Chapter’ thus, must contain a work structure that has a more linear payment, greater flexibility leading to a reduced gender wage gap.

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