The underrepresentation of women in top positions within firms is well documented. One potential contributing factor could be that men and women respond differently to the competitive pressure inherent in firm hierarchies. This column investigates this idea in the context of a two-stage maths competition for students in Spain. Despite male and female students achieving similar grades at school, male students perform better in both stages of the contest. Importantly, the gender gap increases in the second stage, when the competitive pressure is greater.
Nagore Iriberri, Pedro Rey Biel, 24 October 2016
Ghazala Azmat, Rosa Ferrer, 12 July 2016
Gender gaps in earnings exist in high-skill industries despite male and female workers having similar educational backgrounds. This column uses evidence from the legal industry to assess how performance affects career outcomes across genders. Performance gaps, defined by hours billed and new revenue raised, explain a substantial share of the gender gaps in earnings, as women’s working hours are affected by having young children while those of men are not. An important implication is that gender-based inequality in earnings and career outcomes might not decrease in the near future as more high-skilled workers are explicitly compensated based on performance.
David Autor, David Figlio, Krzysztof Karbownik, Jeffrey Roth, Melanie Wasserman, 22 June 2016
Around the world, girls tend to surpass boys in educational achievement. Early childhood inputs have been shown to be particularly important for the formation of children’s skills and behavioural patterns. Using US data, this column shows that in higher-quality schools the gender gap in terms of both skills and behaviour shrinks, with essentially no boy-girl disparity in outcomes at the very best schools. Better schools are thus an effective policy lever for reducing gender disparities in elementary and middle school outcomes.
Ghazala Azmat, Caterina Calsamiglia, Nagore Iriberri, 22 January 2016
Not everyone responds to pressure in the same way. This column suggests that girls and boys respond differently to the pressure of exams, depending on the significance of the exams. Girls perform relatively better when the stakes are low, but boys outperform them when the stakes are very high. This has a number of implications for the choices that young men and women make over degree subjects and careers.
Marianne Bertrand, Emir Kamenica, Jessica Pan, 13 April 2015
The reduction in the gender gap in labour market outcomes has stalled. Recent research suggests that gender identity might be one of the culprits. This column provides new evidence on the issue using US census data. The results indicate that the prescription that women should earn less than men plays a role in marriage rates, the labour market supply of women, and marital satisfaction. The interaction of economic progress and changing gender norms could therefore explain the lower marriage and fertility rates among educated women.
Yuko Kinoshita, Fang Guo, 31 March 2015
Japan and Korea need to encourage female labour market participation to counter acute labour shortages. This column argues that following Nordic countries’ experiences, it would be possible to achieve both high female labour force participation rate and fertility rate. However, this is only possible if supported by appropriate public and private sector policies.
Tony Atkinson, Alessandra Casarico, Sarah Voitchovsky, 10 July 2014
The glass ceiling is typically examined in terms of the distribution of earnings. This column discusses the glass ceiling in the gender distribution of total incomes, including self-employment and capital income. Evidence from Canada and the UK shows we are still far from equality. Though the proportion of women in the top 1% has been rising, the progress is slower, almost non-existent, at the very top of the distribution.
Piritta Sorsa, 18 June 2014
Female labour market participation in India is lower than in other emerging markets. This column discusses the dynamics and causes of this issue. Many women have dropped out of the labour market in the recent years, or work in low-paying jobs without social benefits and with large wage differentials. Raising female labour force participation could boost economic growth up to 2.4% with a package of pro-growth and pro-women policies.
Ghazala Azmat, Barbara Petrongolo, 07 June 2014
There are considerable gender differences in pay and employment levels, and in the type of labour-market activities. This column reviews experimental studies that address different aspects of these problems. Three channels are explored: gender discrimination on the labour market, differences in individual and group preferences, and productivity. Despite recent experimental advances, gender differences in labour-market success have only been partially explained.
Vincenzo Galasso, Paola Profeta, Chiara Pronzato, Francesco Billari, 16 November 2013
The gender gap in labour-force participation rates is still not closing up. Among other factors, cultural aspects may play a role. This column describes an experimental study, conducted with women from Italy, on the benefits of formal childcare on outcomes of children. Highly educated women are positively affected by the information about formal childcare. Low-educated mothers, however, do not increase their use of childcare facilities, or their labour supply.
Christopher Cotton, Frank McIntyre, Joseph Price, 21 October 2010
Around the world, the pay and achievement gap between men and women remains significant, as shown by last week’s Global Gender Gap Report. This column explores whether this gap can be explained by attitudes towards competition. Using experimental evidence from math quiz competitions in primary schools, it finds that while males respond better to competition initially, this advantage is short-lived, as females are just as responsive over time.
Sara de la Rica , Juan Dolado, Raquel Vegas, 03 August 2010
The competitive paradigm predicts equivalent wages for equivalent workers, but significant gender gaps persist in many labor markets. This column analyses the gap in earnings between Spanish men and women, focusing on performance-related pay. It shows a strikingly large gap in pay and suggests that employer beliefs about unbalanced household tasks and outside options generate “a marriage premium” for males and a “marriage penalty” for women.
Mirco Tonin, Michael Vlassopoulos, 28 May 2010
What motivates workers in their job? This column presents evidence from a recent field experiment suggesting that women are motivated by concern about the social cause pursued by their employer, while men are not. This may provide new insight into the gender earnings gap.
Evren Örs, Frédéric Palomino, Eloïc Peyrache, 21 July 2008
What causes the persistent gender gap among high-income earners? Using entrance exams from an elite French university, this column suggests that part of the explanation may lie in gender differences in performing under competitive pressure.
Graziella Bertocchi, 30 July 2007
Data from the period 1870-1930 shed light on the economics of women’s political empowerment. They suggest that declining earnings gaps and evolving family culture should foster future extensions of women’s political rights. The constant increase of marital instability, however, may push the other way.