How ‘Greedy Work’, More than Bias, Explains the Persistent Gender Wage Gap

20 December, 2021

In a new book, economist Claudia Goldin finds that the gender wage gap is a symptom of a far greater problem, one that has largely been invisible. In a recent interview with Elizabeth Weingarten, Goldin explains that while the focus has largely been on discrimination in the labour market, a larger structural factor is ‘greedy work’ and the trade-offs families make related to it.

Elizabeth Weingarten: A central theme of your book is this idea of “greedy work,” which makes it hard for everyone—even couples that want to create egalitarian families—to actually realize equity. You talk about how it leads to couples jettisoning dreams of equity for increased family income. I’m in my early 30s right now and I see that in pretty much every couple that I know. I would love for you to describe how you define greedy work.

Claudia Goldin: [Egalitarian-minded couples] want to pursue what I call couple equity. But instead, when they have children or some other very important care responsibilities in which at least one of them will need to have a job with a certain amount of flexibility, they have to then ask themselves, “How much are we willing to pay for this equity?”  Equity may be expensive. And the expense is due to the notion of greedy work. 

A simple way of thinking about greedy work is that if one works, let’s say, twice as many hours, like working 60 hours a week rather than 30 hours a week, it gives you more than twice the income. That means that your implicit hourly wage is rising with the number of hours. It’s not really just the number of hours, it’s also whether you can call the shots on which hours you work; [the kind of job where you can’t call the shots] is the sort of job that may be harder for someone who has care responsibilities to do. Flexibility is multidimensional. So the price of equity can be the difference between two earnings scenarios: one person in a couple taking the higher paying, less flexible, and “greedier” role, while the other partner takes a more flexible, lower paying one. And the other scenario is one in which both forgo higher earnings, and take more flexible work.

Via Behavioural Scientist, 1 December 2021. Read the full article here.

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