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Frontiers
Gender Gap Theory Collapses Under Scrutiny

January 1997

The gender gap in wages is real, and it cannot be explained by a theory that men put more time and effort into their jobs, sociologists announced at the American Sociological Association meeting last August.

William Bielby, an NSF-funded sociologist from the University of California, Santa Barbara, tested a theory used by some economists to explain inequities in wages between men and women.

In short, the theory says that due to family commitments, women put in less time and effort at work than men do. Or, as Bielby told the United Press International, the theory is: "Hour-for-hour, men are more productive than women, who have greater household responsibilities. And [men] receive more pay and better career opportunities as a result."

Bielby and his colleagues interviewed 500 employed adults and their employers. He found "no support" for this theory.

"In fact," he told UPI, "our results showed that compared to men with similar household responsibilities, human capital and work contexts, women allocate substantially more effort to outside employment."

Other sociologists presented evidence that the wage gap has closed slightly since the 1960s, when women earned 59 cents for every dollar men earned. Now women are earning an average of 71 cents to the dollar, according to Suzanne Bianchi, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, College Park.

 


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