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Women may not be more pessimistic than men after all – why that matters for the gender pay gap

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We live in a world largely designed by men, for men, and according to a particular limited view of what it is to be a man. This has had a lot of unfair consequences, one of which is that women are paid less than men. It’s vital that we address this.

First we need to understand the causes of this inequality. Otherwise, a well-intentioned attempt to redress one inequality can exacerbate others. For example, two recent papers analysed the gender pay gap in terms of data from jobs that involve driving, where in many cases, men earn more. Neither paper found evidence to suggest that the employers were discriminating against the women. Instead, they explained the gap in terms of the choices and behaviours of the workers.

For instance, male Uber drivers were found to choose gigs closer to their current location, spend less time waiting for customers and drive faster than female drivers. Male transit drivers were found to be more likely than females to choose to work antisocial shifts that pay a premium.

This means that a law requiring equal pay could be treating a symptom rather than the underlying problem. Additionally, a law to “level up” the take-home pay of female drivers would increase labour costs for the employers. All else being equal, this would reduce the number of drivers that these firms employ.

Society may decide that these costs are worth incurring to reduce the gender wage gap, but it is important to recognise the trade-off. In the example, reducing inequality in drivers’ pay could........

© The Conversation

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