A Pos­si­ble Route to Bridge the Gen­der Pay Gap

Bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion, level-play­ing field at work to help women earn more than men

The Economic Times - - Career & Business Life - SEND­HIL MUL­LAINATHAN

It's 2014, and women are still paid less than men. Does this sug­gest that a gen­der pay gap is an un­for­tu­nately per­ma­nent fix­ture? Will it still be with us in 50 years? I would pre­dict yes. But by that point, it will be men who will be earn­ing less than women. My fore­cast is based on ev­i­dence from schools, where it has been eas­ier to work to­ward a level-play­ing field than in the workplace. Aca­dem­i­cally, girls have not merely caught up with boys in per­for­mance: they have over­taken them. In a study is­sued last year, and us­ing data from 2000 to 2009, the econ­o­mists Ni­cole M Fortin, Philip Ore­opou­los and Shel­ley Phipps found that 20.7% of fe­male high school se­niors had an “A” grade-point aver­age, ver­sus 14.7% of boys. In 2012, more than 70% of high school vale­dic­to­ri­ans were girls.

The trend ex­tends into col­lege. One study of Florida pub­lic col­leges, by the econ­o­mists Dy­lan Conger and Mark C Long and cov­er­ing the years 2002 to 2005, found that women had higher grade-point av­er­ages and were also more likely to stay in school. And the Har­vard econ­o­mists Clau­dia Goldin and Lawrence F Katz also show in their book, “The Race Be­tween Ed­u­ca­tion and Tech­nol­ogy,” how times have changed. They re­port that by age 30, a man born in 1945 was roughly 50% more likely than a woman to have com­pleted col­lege — but that men born from 1960 to 1975 were less likely to com­plete col­lege than women. For the group born in 1975, the gap was nearly 25%. “When­ever ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties are made avail­able on a rel­a­tively equal ba­sis for fe­males,” Katz told me, “they tend to ex­cel in com­ple­tion and grades with some field dif­fer­ences.” As op­por­tu­ni­ties equalise in the workplace, will we also see a re­ver­sal of the gen­der pay gap? One rea­son to think it's pos­si­ble arises from why boys un­der­per­form in school in the first place. The prime sus­pect for this un­der­per­for­mance is boys’ short­age of what so­cial sci­en­tists call non-cog­ni­tive skills.

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