Claudia Goldin of Harvard

Claudia Goldin is very definitely one of the better economists working on matters like the gender pay gap. Not that that’s a high bar to clear, given the number who simply scream discrimination and leave it at that. Goldin’s very much better than just clearing the bar in fact.

However, there’s still something not quite right about her major point here.

If there’s one thing men can do to improve women’s life at work, it would be…

Want what women want. If men wanted to take more responsibility at home (real responsibility), then workplaces would be structured differently, and men and women would be treated and paid more equally in the labor market. It’s that simple.

Well, yes, that’s true. If men and women wanted the same things from the world of work then we almost certainly wouldn’t see a gender pay gap. Simply because the one we have got stems almost entirely from men and women desiring different things from the world of work. So, true, great, fine.

However, do note that this works the other way around. If women wanted what men want then there also wouldn’t be that gender pay gap. For exactly the same reason, we wouldn’t see that self-sorting across the labour market by gender.

Now try saying that the gender pay gap would be solved by women manning up. Yes, well, not going to get far with that one really, are we? Yet it is still the correct answer, just as men coming to desire the same things from work that women do. The gap is caused by different desires, only when they become the same will the gap disappear.

Entirely true that the gender pay gap will disappear if men feminize – but so also would it go if women masculinised. Which is where our problem is, isn’t it? No, we don’t want to try to insist that women should become as brutal and stupid as men (ahem, hyperbole alert) but given that is so why should or would we try to insist upon the reverse?

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  1. Another educated woman who thinks that “work” is the intellectual office twinkling about that she does.

    May her toilet spout a geyser of human waste, may her light switches pulse with power overloads, and may her groceries run out while the entire food supply chain decide they too want an office job and suggest that women should “want” to be plumbers grubbing about underground, electricians wrestling with electrons or farmers, truckers et al.

    Women don’t want equality or they would be signing up as heavy trade apprentices. They want superiority, and if they are physically attractive they get it, per Heinlein, but not otherwise.

  2. I would not wrestle with a farmer. Goldin does not want to change the economy but change its women. They are to be little men in pantsuits; then there will not even be a self-selection explanation for the “gender gap.” Hopefully when robots do all our work, it will be easier to ensure that the male ones don’t earn more money than the female ones. So Goldin’s one of the brighter bulbs?

  3. — “In essence, Goldin argued that outright sexism wasn’t to blame for the gap. Instead, the underlying issue was that women with kids are more likely than men to seek out “temporal flexibility“—that is, jobs with more flexible hours or remote-work options. These roles tend to pay less, even when they require the same amount of work.”

    A statement of the bleedin’ obvious if ever there was one: women bear children, make different choices and have different priorities.

    Yet these self-evident nuggets are apparently revelatory: “she published a highly influential book called Understanding the Gender Gap, which challenged conventional wisdom about the root causes of unequal pay between the sexes…It’s still making waves in the media.”

    Only Goldin can go to China.