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Published in: Public Choice 1-2/2021

26-06-2020

The gender wage gap: an analysis of US congressional staff members

Authors: Peter T. Calcagno, Meg M. Montgomery

Published in: Public Choice | Issue 1-2/2021

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Abstract

The gender wage gap has been a concern in the United States since the mid-twentieth century. Congress and some states have enacted and continue to advocate equal pay legislation. We extend the analysis to Congress itself, which is important for two reasons. First, members of Congress are pushing equal pay for men and women in an attempt to produce an outcome in the private economy that they may not be able to achieve. Second, the discussion of the so-called gender pay gap has focused on private sector wage differences, but the incentive structure facing public sector actors is very different, namely the absence of a profit motive and a residual claimant. Political institutions may allow Congress to shirk in closing the wage gap among staffers. The literature on the gender pay gap emphasizes that labor market structures along with differences in gender-based preferences and occupational choices may be more salient in explaining the wage gap. We investigate the gender wage gap in congressional offices using panel data from 2000 to 2016 using a Blinder–Oaxaca decomposition. We control for human capital, office characteristics, and individual-level demographics. Regardless of specification, we find that a gender wage gap exists across staffers similar to the gap in the private sector. Our findings suggest that if Congress wants to close the wage gap, it could find ways of allowing labor markets to provide employees greater flexibility including their own saffers.

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Footnotes
1
McCrain and Palmer (2019) note that all members of the US House are limited to 18 full-time equivalent employees. In that chamber, budgets are the same across all offices; in the Senate, state population determines office budget sizes. See McCrain and Palmer (2019) for additional characteristics and institutional features of congressional offices.
 
2
For the House, the maximum salary is $168,411; for an employee of the Senate, the maximum is $169,459 (Brudnick 2016).
 
3
On occasion, the records report negative compensation owing to accounting adjustments or repayments. For that reason, we narrow the sample to all salaries exceeding $1000. All annual salaries include bonuses; all part-time, temporary employees, and interns were removed from the sample.
 
4
The LegiStor.com data on education do not consistently report degrees earned, but years of education. We therefore rely on GS codes to approximate staffer’s educational attainments. Although we use the GS system to code our education variables, we note that Congress does not follow the GS code to manage staff salaries.
 
5
All of the variables in our models to estimate the gender wage gap are obtained from LegiStor.com.
 
6
To conserve on space, we present and discuss the regional variables here only. The results remain consistent across the models and therefore are not reported in additional tables.
 
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Metadata
Title
The gender wage gap: an analysis of US congressional staff members
Authors
Peter T. Calcagno
Meg M. Montgomery
Publication date
26-06-2020
Publisher
Springer US
Published in
Public Choice / Issue 1-2/2021
Print ISSN: 0048-5829
Electronic ISSN: 1573-7101
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11127-020-00820-7

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