Would women accept a gender pay gap if roles were reversed? 4 study findings

Women are just as likely as men to vote against a policy that shrinks the gender pay gap if the roles are reversed and men are the ones earning less, according to a study published in the journal of Applied Economics Letters.

Marlon Williams, a researcher from the University of Dayton (Ohio), conducted an experiment where he recruited participants to answer a 30-question quiz. They would get paid based on the number of responses they answered correctly. In half of the sessions, the questions were written to give men an advantage by asking things on topics that surveys show men are more interested in than women, such as sports and certain movie genres. The other half of the sessions used a quiz designed to give women an advantage, according to a June 10 research brief on the study. 

Study participants were given three opportunities to vote to be paid $1 for each correctly answered question or to receive just 85 cents per correctly answered question and give the disadvantaged group $1.25 per correct answer.

Four study findings:

  1. In all voting sessions, women were more likely than men to vote against the policy that would have leveled the playing field and narrowed the pay gap.

  2. On average, 96.8 percent of women's votes were against the proposed corrective payment policy, while just 90.5 percent of men's votes were against the same policy.

  3. When the women were disadvantaged, they voted in favor of the corrective policy more frequently than men (79.5 percent and 73 percent, respectively).

  4. Pew Research data shows women make 84 cents on the dollar of what men earn. In a 2019 survey, 46 percent of men said men believe the gender pay gap is "made up" to serve a political purpose, rather than a legitimate compensation issue. The research suggests that self-interest could drive voters when making decisions on addressing the gender wage gap.

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