Race and Gender Discrimination at Work

By Samuel Cohn | Go to book overview

5 Why Are Women Paid Less Than Men?

It used to be said that women are paid 59¢ to the dollar. In the 1990s, women are paid nearly 75¢ to the dollar. The basic principle, however, still holds: Women are paid less than men. Understanding why women are paid less than men gets at the heart of the economic basis of gender differences. If females were paid the same as males, it would matter much less whether they worked in the same types of jobs as males. Even if they were systematically deprived of organizational power, they would earn the same incomes as men, and therefore not be as dependent on men in their domestic lives. The financial basis of patriarchy in the home would be significantly reduced (although not eliminated, because gender differences might still persist in unemployment).

This chapter will lay out three standard explanations of gendered pay differentials and one nonstandard explanation. All these factors probably contribute in some way to accounting for why women are paid less than men. That said, the best single explanation is probably one of the standard ones, the overcrowding hypothesis. The logic of the overcrowding hypothesis is compelling, and it is backed by strong empirical support. The other two standard explanations, human capital theory and comparable worth theory have logical problems that make them less than fully satisfactory. They do have some support within the data, however, and as such cannot be dismissed in their entirety.

The nonstandard explanation developed here within the feminist neo- classical tradition, is called production constraint theory. Production constraint theory argues that men are paid more than women because men systematically lower women's productivity. Note that the claim is not that men systematically undervalue women's productivity; that argument is

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Race and Gender Discrimination at Work
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Notes 28
  • 3 What Determines If a Job is Male or Female? 51
  • Notes 79
  • Notes 114
  • Notes 139
  • 6 Why Are Blacks More Likely to Be Unemployed Than Are Whites? 140
  • Notes 165
  • 7 Twenty-Six Things to Remember About Discrimination 166
  • Appendix A: Glossary 171
  • Appendix B: A Socratic Guide to Race and Gender Discrimination at Work 174
  • Appendix C: Problems for Deeper Thought 183
  • References 185
  • Index 193
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