Sun, April 21, 2024

Simon Says: Gender pay gap continues, job choices and religion may play a role

Dr. Simon Medcalfe, AU Economics Professor

The gender pay gap in the United States is about 19 percent, meaning women in full-time, year-round work earn 81 cents for every dollar men earn. In Georgia, the gap is slightly higher at 24.4 percent.

The pay gap has decreased from about 40 percent in the 1950’s through the 1970’s. Much of this decline can be attributed to women gaining more education. At Augusta University, the student body is 64 percent female. Given the increase in educational attainment, human capital acquisition explains little of the continued pay gap.

Nearly two-thirds of students at Augusta University are females.

Another explanation is an occupational choice. In the 1970’s, 53 percent of women were employed in low-paying administrative support and services occupations while less than 20 percent of managers were women. Currently, women hold almost half of managerial jobs. However, women are still choosing occupations and careers that allow for workforce interruptions and shorter hours.

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At Augusta University, there are 1,011 female students of nursing but only 179 men. In education, there are 591 full-time education students but only 182 men.

However, about a third of the gender pay gap cannot be explained by economists after taking into account education, experience, and occupation. Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn, in a 2017 paper, (https://www.aeaweb.org/articles?id=10.1257/jel.20160995) state that gender discrimination cannot be ruled out.

A recent study (https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2738523) provides some provocative thoughts. Wiseman and Dutta find that more religious states in the United States have higher gender pay gaps. A 10 percent increase in those who believe in God increases the pay gap by about 3 percentage points.

Studies have found higher gender pay gaps among women of faith.

The authors, and former President Jimmy Carter, argue that “women are prevented from playing a full role in many faiths” and this “does not stop at the walls of the church, synagogue, or temple” but may spill over into the work environment. Men in religions or denominations that do not allow female leadership roles may also restrict women’s leadership roles at work.

Of course, a woman that interprets religious text as the literal word of God may take no issue with the lesser role, but a non-religious woman may find promotion and higher pay opportunities blocked.

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