Magazine article Chicago Policy Review (Online)

Leaning in or Leaning Out?

Magazine article Chicago Policy Review (Online)

Leaning in or Leaning Out?

Article excerpt

The World Economic Forum estimates that for every dollar a woman earns, a man earns $1.54 in the United States. Holding all else equal, it would take the world 169 years to close the wage gap completely. This disparity has triggered an ongoing debate not only about the extent of the gap but also about what actions and policies can be implemented to shrink it. One example is the “Lean In” movement that, among other things, motivates women to negotiate salaries as frequently as men. However, a new study by Christine Exley, Muriel Niederle and Lise Vesterlund analyzes whether women realize financial gains from negotiating.

To better understand the potential benefits of negotiating, the authors conducted a laboratory experiment from May to October 2013 in which 292 undergraduate students participated in negotiation sessions. The design of the experiment consisted of randomly assigning participants into pairs of workers and firms. At the beginning of the experiment, each participant performed a minor task to obtain a contribution that later was added to their salary when negotiating. Once participants learned their contribution, they entered five rounds of negotiations. The negotiations were anonymous and workers and employers could only interact for three minutes via text message. Additionally, when participants were matched, a computer generated a suggested wage for the employee equal to the worker’s contribution plus a random bonus. In this experimental design, the main goal of the negotiation was for both parties to split the sum of their combined earnings.

With this experimental setup, the authors created two treatments. The first treatment allowed workers to negotiate or to accept the computer suggested wage-the choice treatment. In the second treatment, all participants were required to negotiate-the forced treatment. If the parties did not reach an agreement, then the final wage was the computer-suggested salary minus a five dollar penalty for both the worker and the firm.

There are three major results from the experiment: First, the results show that when men and women are required to negotiate in the forced treatment, the performance and the agreement rate are similar. …

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