Monday, August 17, 2015

Research Monday 3. On Women And Men in the Labor Markets

These two studies about men and women in the labor markets are worth reading, despite their focus on the upper classes.

For a fairly good door into the magical world of economic research into work and gender, check out this post with its references.

The material it covers is still very important, especially given the crude treatment of the pertinent research by many MRAs who argue that men earn more because they work more and because they work harder, and more dangerously*.

That the discrepancies exist after controlling for working hours etc, albeit  reduced, is important to notice.

And that new right-wing chestnut, about young women presumably now out-earning young men, doesn't hold water (if chestnuts can be said to hold water).  That's because the study found it only to be "true" for unmarried and childless young women and men and only in large urban centers. 

Men earned more than women in the married category.  Even the results for urban singles were most likely caused by the fact that young women in urban areas are, on average, more educated than young men in urban areas.  To look for gender differences in earnings we must compare otherwise as identical people as possible (only differing in perceived gender).  That means comparing equally educated men and women, not comparing people with different average education levels.

Limiting the comparisons to people at the very beginning of their careers (a common trick in conservative writing about gender and earnings)  is also problematic if we are to analyze overall gender differences in earnings.

That's because most earnings differences, whether discriminatory or not, take time to appear.  Firms must have time to promote or fire people at different rates, workers must have time to get children and then perhaps drop out of the labor market for some years and so on.  The only possible discriminatory earnings differences that could exist at the initial point of hiring are those caused by discriminatory hiring practices (e.g. picking men for the better-paid jobs), not usually by direct gender  discrimination for people in the same occupational category.
*See this post for an explanation of gross and net earnings differences between men and women.  The MRAs only talk about the gross differences.

The reference to dangerous jobs is something I have discussed earlier, but the gist of the counterargument is that the number of men in those dangerous jobs is too small and the jobs are not paid well enough to account for the overall average gender gap in earnings.  It's not the fishermen who make loads of money, it's the stock brokers.