Yesterday, economist Allison Schrager definitively debunked Sheryl Sandberg’s view that women can get ahead in the business world by learning how to lean in.
Yes, Virginia, there is a wage gap between male and female MBAs. A recent study by researchers at the University of Chicago has demonstrated the point.
The real question is: Why?
One reason is that men gravitate to courses that lead to higher-paying jobs. Another is that women work less after they have children.
Schrager explains that it has nothing to do with whether or not women lean in:
The large and growing gap is not due to timid female MBAs. Some of it is attributed to different skills, jobs before the MBA and that male business students typically take more finance classes and women more marketing classes. But a majority of the difference is due to women taking time out of the labor force and then working less after having children. Women without children usually don’t take time off and most of their earnings disparity with men can be explained by differences in their skills.
But, some of the working mothers did manage to advance their careers, even after having children. They were not the least timid of the bunch, but they were the ones who had, in Schrager’s words, married down. They had practiced female hypogamy—they had married men who were relatively poor.
It’s notable that the earnings of some women did not fall very much after they had children and any drop in income did not persist after a few years. But these women often had a “lower” earning spouse (income under $100,000). A large and sustained drop in income is highly correlated with having children and a high-earning husband.
Perhaps, Schrager continues, these high-achieving women chose men who were less ambitious, and therefore would be more available to help with childcare. Or perhaps the spouses gravitated to these roles by a more mysterious process:
It’s not clear why that might be. It could be high-achieving women chose less ambitious husbands, anticipating that they’ll be more available to help with childcare. Sheryl Sandberg concedes that leaning in and having a family requires a supportive partner. Or it could be once some women had children they took less demanding jobs simply because they had the luxury of more work life balance. In light of this, advice that urges women to marry well seem all the more antiquated. If you want to have it all, best not aspire to being one half of a power-couple.
Let’s see: the old division of marital labor still pertains. In a few married couples the roles have been reversed, but the structure is the same: the female is the breadwinner and the male takes care of the children and the household.
We do not, however, see marriages with two equal partners sharing equally in the household chores and both advancing high-powered careers. The feminist dream of perfect equality is obviously a mirage.