Credit: Justin Merriman/Getty Images
Harvard Study Demolishes the Gender Pay Gap Myth: Men Just Work Longer Hours

Harvard Study Demolishes the Gender Pay Gap Myth: Men Just Work Longer Hours

“While having the same choice sets in the workplace, women and men make different choices.”

The gender pay gap is ​​widely cited as proof that women face systemic workplace discrimination. Just last week, a women’s think tank ​found that women supposedly get paid half as much as men, even worse than the widely cited 80 percent.

However, the research has ​never really supported the simplistic dogma of ​gender discrimination. Rather, it ​appears that women tend to do less lucrative jobs for personal and social reasons, most notably birth and child-rearing.

Now, a ​new study by Harvard University researchers has provided further proof that women are already getting equal pay for equal work.

Economists Valetin Bolotnyy and Natalia Emanuel basically worked backwards from the usual assumptions by analyzing a workplace in which gender discrimination would be nearly impossible: the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

As they noted, the MBA ― which operates most of the public transport in the Greater Boston area ― is unionized. That means that men and women do pretty much the same jobs for the same hourly wages and conditions, and promotions are determined by seniority not performance.

In other words, there would be almost no wiggle-room for a sexist boss to express his bias. 

Based on their analysis of the data ― looking at pay stubs, time cards, and scheduling between 2011 and 2017, and factoring in employees’ sex, age, date of hire, tenure, and family situation ― Bolotnyy and Emanuel found that there is still a pay gap between the genders: Women earn $0.89 for every dollar men do.

However, the researchers discovered that the disparity completely disappears when men’s significantly longer workdays are factored in.

“The gap of $0.89 in our setting can be explained entirely by the fact that, while having the same choice sets in the workplace, women and men make different choices,” Bolotnyy and Emanuel said.

By their math, male train and bus drivers worked 83 percent more overtime than their female colleagues. They were twice as likely to take an overtime shift ― which pays time-and-a-half, on short notice ― and half as likely to never take overtime. 

Meanwhile, women were more likely to take less desirable routes in exchange for working fewer nights, weekends, and holidays.

Then, there were the different ways men and women responded to having children. Fathers proved more likely than childless men to work overtime for the extra cash, whereas mothers took more time off than childless women. Compared to men, female workers took off twice as many unpaid hours under the Family Medical Leave Act each year.

The study will undoubtedly fail to satisfy many feminists and others who ​rail against the gender wage gap. The research only focuses on a single industry, and anyway, some activists want to see society radically restructured to address this supposed problem.

That, however, is a question of values, not facts, and commentators would do well to differentiate the two.

“The ‘gender wage gap’ is as real as unicorns and has been killed more times than Michael Myers. Yet ​politicians feel the need to genuflect before this phantom figure,” wrote conservative economist John Phelan of the Harvard study. “Let us substitute the quest for phantoms with serious research into the causes of relative incomes.”

Cover image: An illustrative image of a coal miner. (Justin Merriman/Getty Images)

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