Could a Shorter Workweek Help Eliminate the Gender Wage Gap?

A study by Melanie Wasserman, an assistant professor in the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles, comes to the conclusion that a shorter workweek would go a long way to close the gender gap in earnings.

Women are graduating from law, medical and business schools in record numbers. But once they get hired, they are still paid a lot less than men working similar jobs. Even female pediatricians, where women are in the majority, earn on average just 76 percent of their male counterparts, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Wasserman set out to find whether women in the early stages of their careers were choosing careers based on the time requirements and, if so, what this meant for achieving wage parity. Some researchers suggest a significant part of the remaining gender wage gap is due to men taking higher-paying jobs that require longer hours with less flexibility.

In 2003, the U.S. Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education implemented a policy designed to reduce excessive fatigue and stress among medical residents who regularly endured long hours in high-pressure environments. Dr. Wasserman tracked female participation rates in different medical specialties before and after the forced reduction in work hours. Due to the lowering of resident workweek hours, the share of women entering historically time-intensive and highly remunerated specialties increased significantly.

Increased job flexibility and a reduction in work hours in high-wage occupations benefit men as well as women. But since women still bear much of the childbearing and childcare responsibilities, this research suggests work hour reductions could be a powerful tool for closing the gender wage gap not only in healthcare but in other fields as well.

Dr. Wasserman, who joined the UCLA faculty in 2017, is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, where she majored in economics and German. She holds a Ph.D. in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The full study, “Hours Constraints, Occupational Choice, and Gender: Evidence from Medical Residents,” will be published in the Review of Economic Studies. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


RSSComments (0)

Leave a Reply