Sexist Attitudes and the Wage Gap

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It's no secret that some people get paid more than others for doing the same job, but the reason may have less to do with employers' attitudes, than those of the employees themselves. In a new study, two researchers from the University of Florida find that men who subscribe to "traditional" (read stereotypical) ideas of gender roles make more money than their peers who have a more egalitarian mindset.

Organizational psychologists Timothy Judge and Beth Livingston found that men who reported holding traditional views (that is, that women belong in the home, while men earn the money) earned on average $11,930 more annually for doing the same kind of work as men who held more egalitarian views. The reverse was true for women, to a much smaller degree. Female workers with more egalitarian views (that men and women should evenly divide the tasks at home and contribute equally to their shared finances) earned $1,052 more than women who did similar jobs but held more traditional views.

The effect was starkest, however, when researchers compared women's salaries to those of men, while also taking into account their gender-role biases. Men with traditional attitudes not only earned more than other men with egalitarian attitudes, but their annual salary was $14,404 greater than women with traditional attitudes, and $13,352 greater than women with egalitarian attitudes. Put differently, men with traditional attitudes made 71% more than women with traditional attitudes, while egalitarian-minded men made just 7% more than their female counterparts.

Judge and Livingston analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study, a survey of 12,686 people who were interviewed four times between 1979 and 2005. In 1979, the study group ranged in age from 14 to 22; by the end of the study, those volunteers were approaching 50. The salaries that researchers analyzed ranged from $22,795 on average for egalitarian-minded men to $34,725 for men with traditional attitudes. Women with egalitarian attitudes made $21,373, compared with women who held traditional attitudes and earned $20,321. The findings were published in the September issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology.

"What really surprised us was the magnitude of the difference," says Judge. "We suspected that 'traditional' gender-role attitudes would work against women. What surprised us was the degree to which that effect held, even when you start controlling for a variable that you think would make the effect go away, like how many kids you have, or how many hours you work outside the home, what type of occupation." When the researchers controlled for education, intelligence (based on the participants' IQ test scores), occupation, hours worked and even what region they lived in the United States, Judge found that "none of those really made the effect go away."

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