Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Unequal Pay for Unequal Work

As the profoundly misleading slogan implies, people performing equal work should receive equal pay. In truth, there is no such thing as equal work, and besides, when you apply this formulation to men and women, you find out that in most cases they do not do anything resembling equal work.

As we read the usual round of whining about why there are not enough women at all levels of all corporate hierarchies we must remark that a considerable part of the problem is that many women simply do not want to do what it takes to become a lead corporate honcho. Ought we not to respect their free choices?

Of course, we are always looking for ways to quantify the difference, to demonstrate that the pay gap is merely a reflection of hours worked… and that what appears to be equal work is often not equal work. Two workers may have the same title and the same position, but that does not mean that they perform equal work.

Now, the Newswars site reports on a paper by Harvard economists, Valentin Bolotnyy and Natalia Emanuel. It is entitled “Why Do Women Earn Less Than Men? Evidence from Bus and Train Operators.”

Newswars quotes the authors view that the gender pay gap:

… can be explained entirely by the fact that, while having the same choice sets in the workplace, women and men make different choices. Women use the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to take more unpaid timeoff than men and they work fewer overtime hours at 1.5 times the wage rate. At the root of these different choices is the fact that women value time and flexibility more than men. Men and women choose to work similar hours of overtime when it is scheduled a quarter in advance,but men work nearly twice as many overtime hours than women when they are scheduled theday before. Using W-4 filings to ascertain marital status and the presence of dependents, we show that women with dependents – especially single women – value time away from work more than men with dependents.

Different choices suggests that women exercise their freedom to choose… and choose to spend more time with their children.

The numbers tell the story:

… the earnings gap can be explained in our setting by the fact that men take48% fewer unpaid hours off and work 83% more overtime hours per year than women. Thereason for these differences is not that men and women face different choice sets in this job.Rather, it is that women have greater demand for workplace flexibility and lower demand for overtime work hours than men. These gender differences are consistent with women taking on more of the household and childcare duties than men, limiting their work availability in the process. … When overtime hours are scheduled three months in advance, men sign up for about 7%more of them than women. When overtime is scheduled the day before or the day of the necessary shift, men work almost twice as many of those hours as women.

Women with dependents – single women in particular – are considerably less likely than men with dependents to accept an overtime opportunity. This is especially the case during weekends and after regular work hours, times when there are fewer childcare options available.

Besides, the authors continue, what we gingerly call equal work is not really equal work:

They also help to highlight the fact that even when men and women have the same job title and the same job description, the work they do is not homogenous. A worker who works at odd hours (and thus makes more overtime pay because of it) simply isn’t doing the same work as a person who requires extremely regular hours. Similarly, a worker who requires sizable chunks of time off every several years (for maternity leave or childcare needs) is also not doing the same work as a worker who rarely takes time off.

The conclusion: men and women are treated fairly in the workplace, according to their contributions.


Sam L. said...

Men and women make different choices? That's SEXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXIST!!!!11111!!!
We all KNOW that MEN are REPRESSING WOMEN!!!1111!!!! That's NOT "free choice"!!!111!!!
What more can I say, except "The HORROR!! The horror..."

UbuMaccabee said...

Men and women make diffferent choices? Wow, I haven’t heard wisdom like that at Harvard since Harvey Mansfield was still teaching.